After the Portland Planning Board previously deadlocked on the issue, Portland city councilors have approved Husson University's plan to turn the Elks building on Congress Street into a new satellite campus. The move, however, is contingent on the Elks finalizing the purchase of its new home.
The city council last night unanimously approved a zoning change to allow Bangor-based Husson to hold classes in the Elks lodge, currently the home of the Portland Lodge 188 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, according to the Portland Press Herald. Because of declining enrollment and operational costs, the Elks decided to downsize and has a tentative agreement to buy a building occupied by Keeley the Katerer on Warren Avenue.
Husson in December announced plans to turn the 6.9-acre parcel into a campus for up to 50 students, relocating its current satellite campus and its 350 students from Maine Mall Road in South Portland. Last month, Portland planners voted 3-3 on whether to support the zoning change, with opposing members arguing the city should instead approve a contract zoning agreement in order to have more control over the development. The board later supported a zoning change with conditions, including requiring Husson to demonstrate the site is large enough to accommodate a campus. The planning board will review Husson's site plan if the Elks purchase goes through.
An unnamed developer would buy the Elks property and renovate it, then lease it to Husson, according to the paper.