USM wants to build a student success/career center, shown in this rendering in the middle, and a 550-bed residence hall, upper right, on its Portland campus. At left is the existing Luther Bonney Hall. Courtesy of USM

PORTLAND — The new year will be busy on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine with buildings torn down and the launch of one of its most ambitious building projects ever.

USM officially unveiled plans Dec. 17 to make Portland less of a commuter campus.

University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings presents a plan last week to add residences and a new student center on the Portland campus. The plan is expected to be given final approval by the Board of Trustees next month. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The $100 million project includes a 550-bed residence for upperclassmen, graduate students and law students, and a new 60,000-square-foot student success/career center, both on the site of the Woodbury Campus Center and its accompanying parking lot. The two buildings, slated to open in 2022, would be connected and the parking lot would be developed into a green space that could host outdoor events.

The project is being developed by Alabama-based Capstone Development Partners. Portland-based SMRT and PC Construction are the project’s architect and construction manager, respectively.

The Board of Trustees has given preliminary approval to the plan and will vote on final approval next month, USM President Glenn Cummings said.

“We desperately need this housing,” Cummings said, especially for graduate students and those attending the law school. It will also alleviate overcrowded dormitories on the Gorham campus, which are at 118% capacity, and address USM’s increased enrollment, which has jumped by 6.8% since 2015. As of Oct. 15, USM had 8,429 students, with close to 1,350 living on the Gorham campus, versus 1,000 four years ago.

The new residences “won’t hurt the Gorham campus because there is so much demand in the Portland area for affordable housing,” Cummings said.

The student success/career center likely will house dining services, student organization space, a diversity center, USM store, career hub, Student Affairs and Veteran Services offices and WMPG, the campus radio station.

The University of Southern Maine is embarking on construction of a 550-bed residence hall and a 60,000-square-foot student success/career center in the heart of its Portland campus. It would be the first residence on the campus. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The housing may be laid out in a series of single bedrooms with shared bathrooms or apartments with private bathrooms, shared living space and a kitchen.

Jeff Jones, principal of Capstone Development Partners, said the residential units and their price points will be designed to meet the needs of USM and its students.

The residence hall would be the first on the Portland campus, but additional housing and other changes may be coming to the campus in the years ahead.

A master plan approved by the Board of Trustees in January 2019 calls for the construction of a new Graduate Center for Professional Studies for the law school and graduate programs, an arts center with performance and fine art space, and new parking facilities. The master plan also identifies sites to accommodate future academic, housing, parking or athletic growth.

Chief Operating Officer Nancy Griffin said an aggressive timeline has been set in order to get the new buildings open by fall 2022. The hope is to break ground this spring and tear down the Woodbury building in June or July. Work is underway to temporarily relocate the services inside the building.

The Woodbury Campus Center is not the only building slated for demolition. The Board of Trustees has approved this summer’s razing of 118 Bedford St., a vacant building that has not been used in years. It also approved the 2021 demolition of 222 Deering Ave., which is used as a call center for the Muskie School. USM had looked into rehabilitating that building, but found it would be too costly.  Trustees also have approved relocating the building at 23 Brighton Ave., the property’s original farmhouse, next year. The plan, Griffin said, is to use the site for a future building.

“It has been identified as a site for a future building. We are right now thinking the Center for Arts, but it will be a philanthropic building, so we will have to raise the money. We are many years out from that. There is no urgency there,” she said.

 

USM’s Robert L. Woodbury Campus Center will be razed this summer to make way for a new residence for upperclassmen, graduate and law students. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

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