The University of Southern Maine cuts the ribbon on Portland Commons, a new residence hall on the Portland campus, on Tuesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The University of Southern Maine celebrated the opening of Portland Commons, a 580-bed residential hall, with a ribbon cutting Tuesday at its Portland campus.

The Bedford Street residence hall is the school’s first on the Portland campus. Until this semester, USM has only offered a dorm option in Gorham.

USM officials hope the new residence hall will ease pressure on students grappling with the city’s tight housing market, and serve as a “campus heart” or a home base for residential and commuting students.

“This 580-bed residential hall will transform the campus, creating a hub for students from USM, Maine Law, and Southern Maine Community College, solidifying Portland’s reputation as a college town and USM as the hub,” USM President Jacqueline Edmondson said in a release.

Portland Commons has just over 210,000 square feet of space and offers 580 beds in 385 housing units. Those units include single occupancy rooms, studio apartments and larger apartments with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms.

The residence hall’s four wings form a parallelogram that encloses a half-acre, semi-private residential courtyard. Two of the wings are five stories high while the others have eight stories. With floor-to-ceiling glass, the building offers views of the peninsula skyline and Back Cove.


“Undergraduates will now have a living experience in Portland to aspire toward during their first two years, and graduate students will have a place to live and find community and support while they complete their degrees,” said Dominic Barraclough, interim vice president for student affairs and vice provost for academic affairs.

Portland Commons is the second largest passive or energy-efficient building at any university in the United States, according to USM. It is projected to use less than half the energy of a standard modern building.

The University of Southern Maine cuts the ribbon on a new parking garage on the Portland campus on Tuesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

In addition to celebrating the opening of Portland Commons, USM also marked the opening of a new parking garage that features about 500 parking spaces, 58 Level Two electric vehicle charging stations, and long-term storage for more than 250 bicycles. It is the largest Level Two charging station and largest indoor bicycle storage facility in Maine.

“By building our residence hall to earn Passive House certification and by making alternative transportation front and center in our new garage, we’ve decided we aren’t taking baby steps anymore. We are now taking big strides toward our commitment to be a carbon-neutral university by 2040,” said Director of Sustainability Aaron Witham.

The cost to design and build Portland Commons was $74 million and the garage cost $23.5 million. Both projects came in at budget. The projects were funded through revenue bonds approved by the University of Maine System in 2020.

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