University of Southern Maine officials are looking into the possibility of constructing three residential buildings on the site of the white houses along Bedford Street in Portland. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The University of Southern Maine, in the middle of a $72.8 million project to construct the Portland campus’s first residence hall, is also looking into adding housing to campus in another way.

The university has begun discussing with its Portland neighbors the possibility of replacing the white houses on the south side of Bedford street between Deering Avenue and the USM parking garage with three townhouse buildings. The buildings could accommodate 96 one-bedroom, two-bedroom or three-bedroom apartments for faculty and upperclassmen.

Daniel Hartill, a communications and media relations specialist in the Office of Public Affairs, said the future use of the Bedford houses has not been finalized.

“USM continues to review its strategic options and explorations regarding the white houses on Bedford Street, but the University has not finalized nor advanced any official proposals for that space to the university system board of trustees or city of Portland,” he said.

University officials held a virtual meeting with neighbors Aug. 27.

The buildings along Bedford Street, which USM began acquiring in the late 1960s, house a number of university offices, including human resources and the office of public affairs, as well as academic programs, such as the Stonecoast Master of Fine Arts, TRIO and Women and Gender Studies, the campus food pantry, student newspaper and campus radio station.

Any sort of reuse of the houses is not part of the University’s 2019 master plan, but two other Bedford Street projects are the demolition of a vacant university building at 118 Bedford St., and the construction of a second parking garage to help accommodate the parking needs of the residence hall and make up for surface parking that is being displaced across the street.

The new five-story garage would be located next to the existing one on Bedford Street and be able to accommodate 632 vehicles.

Construction of the garage is anticipated to begin winter 2021 or in spring 2022 and be
substantially complete in April 2023.

Work is continuing on Portland Commons on the site of the old Woodbury Campus Center. The 580-bed residence hall is a first for the campus. The project, the largest in USM’s history, also includes a 42,000-square-foot Career and Student Success Center and campus green. Completion is expected by late spring 2023.

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