FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington is planning on moving its early childhood learning center to a renovated space on Front Street in an effort officials say would enhance programming while also saving the university money by not having to construct a new building.

In January, the University of Maine System board of trustees approved the purchase of 274 Front St., a former medical call center, with the intention of renovating the space as a new home for the Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center.

“We have a wonderful structure in place,” said Katherine Yardly, acting vice president for academic affairs at UMF. “We’re an early childhood facility as well as a place where we help prepare teachers. All of our students work in the center as part of their practicum or internship, so we’re designing the environment so it’s of the highest quality.”

Yardly said the university’s goal is to have renovations complete and have the center moved into the new building by the end of the summer, though that timeline might get extended.

The center serves as a working child care facility as well as a training area for pre-service teachers.

The 10,384-square-foot building at 274 Main St. is a former NotifyMD call center, Yardly said. Right now the university is in the process of drafting a vision for the space and looking at opportunities to make use of its proximity to nature trails and the outdoor environment.

Originally, the university had been looking at renovating and expanding the existing early childhood center, located at 240 Main St., or using funding approved for a state bond in November for a rebuild of the space.

Renovation and expansion of the current building was estimated to cost $1.9 million, while officials have estimated the cost of renovating 274 Main St. to be slightly less.

In January, trustees approved the sale for $849,000, and the university also plans to set aside $475,000 for renovations. At the same time, UMF is planning to demolish two other buildings on campus – 110-112 Maguire St. and 228 Main St. – to offset the additional square footage.

The Maguire Street building, which is currently vacant, formerly housed the Early Childhood Development Program and Office of Public Safety, the latter of which has moved to 149 Quebec St.

The Brinkman House at 228 Main St., which currently houses the math department, is scheduled to move into the Ricker Addition facility with funds from the bond helping to renovate the space, according to documents presented to the board of trustees last month.

The last upgrades to the Sweatt-Winter center were in 2015, when new flooring and ceilings were put in because of water damage.

The university recently announced a $3,500 grant from the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program to support early-childhood education and nature-based learning, and interim President Eric C. Brown said in a November interview that UMF is looking to continue to grow both the facilities and the curriculum.

“They have a very innovative department, and they’re doing a lot with nature-based learning,” Brown said at the time. “We’re wanting to infuse new technology into the space as a step towards creating a better environment for the kids and their families.”

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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