BIDDEFORD — The University of New England plans to build a new student center and an addition to the Marine Science Center in the next one to three years.

Alan Thibeault, UNE’s assistant vice president of planning, discussed these and 21 other projects at a Biddeford Planning Board meeting on Wednesday.

Some of the projects are as minor as building a 1,000- square-foot storage facility, but there are two major projects to which UNE has given high priority, he said: the construction of a three-story, 75,000-square-foot student center and a 20,000-square-foot addition to the Marine Science Center.

“We’re missing a living room, so to speak, on the campus, and this would be it,” Thibeault said of the proposed student center, which would include a dining hall, study rooms and space for student services such as tutoring.

Currently, UNE has one dining hall, which has a seating capacity of 325 and serves an average of 1,400 students – plus faculty and staff – for lunch every day, Thibeault said, adding that the limited seating makes for “a very uncomfortable” environment.

The proposed addition to the Marine Science Center is on top of the school’s to-do list because of the strength and popularity of the programs taught there, said Thibeault.

“We have had great success with our marine science programs, and (they) have really taken off and they need more space,” he said. “So we are actively trying to seek funding to assist us with an expansion of that facility.”

The largest proposed project on the list – the construction of a four-story, 100,000-square-foot residence hall with 300 beds – is something the university is not expecting to pursue in the near future, said Thibeault.

“It’s one of the projects that may happen, but it’s not high on our list of priorities,” he said.

Although proposals to add buildings to UNE’s seaside campus have in the past spurred worries among residents of the area, members of the public who spoke Wednesday mainly addressed concerns related to campus roads.

Residents Chris Stone and Kyle Noble each suggested making improvements to portions of Hills Beach Road, such as widening it, to make it safer. Planning Board members Richard Potvin and Clement Fleurent seconded these concerns.

“It’s really dangerous,” Fleurent, who often drives an oil truck in the area, said of a particular stretch near the intersection of Hills Beach Road and Red Oak Lane.

Ultimately, the Planning Board will have to vote to approve UNE’s campus master plan. City Planner Greg Tansley said in an email Friday that it plans to get more input from the public before doing so.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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