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Updated: February 25, 2021

Funding approved for USM student dorm, career center

Rendering of future student housing building in Portland Rendering / Courtesy, University of Maine System The planned Portland Commons student housing residence hall will be able to accommodate 580 students at USM's Portland campus.

University of Maine System trustees on Wednesday approved an additional $93.7 million in funding for development of affordable student housing and a career services center at the University of Southern Maine campus in Portland.

The campus development project, with a total price tag of $99.4 million, will be the largest building project in USM's history. The project includes the creation of a 580-bed Portland Commons Residence Hall, a Career and Student Success Center and a one-acre campus green. 

The planned residence hall is among several proposed housing initiatives that could bring nearly 1,000 new student beds to campuses in Farmington, Presque Isle and Portland by 2023 to attract, retain and prepare more career-ready college graduates for the Maine workforce.

Funding for the project will come from voter-approved general obligation bonds, University of Maine System revenue bonds and private philanthropy, officials told Mainebiz on Thursday.

At present, USM has $1 million in private philanthropy for the project.

The budget for the Portland Commons project is $72.8 million and will be funded by UMaine System revenue bonds. The three-story, 42,000 square-foot building will house dining and several student services as well as USM’s expanded Career and Employer Services programming to better connect students and employers.

The $26.6 million USM Career and Student Success Center includes $19 million in funding authorized by voters as part of the $49 million 2018 Workforce Development Bond for the University of Maine System, with the balance funded by private philanthropy and, if needed, University of Maine System revenue bonds.

Further details 

Construction is set to start next month, with a goal of opening the new buildings in June 2023. Capstone Development Partners is the developer; PC Construction is the general contractor; and Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects Ltd. and SMRT Architects and Engineers, of Portland, are the architects and design consultants.

Other project partners include Woodard & Curran Inc. (permitting); Steven Winter Associates (Passive House/sustainability); VHB (transportation logistics); and Bernstein Shur (counsel). In addition, Washington, D.C.-based Brailsford & Dunlavey Inc. is providing advisory and consulting services to USM and other UMaine System universities on this and other development projects.

USM has a goal of connecting 100% of its students with career services and increasing employer engagement exponentially through the new center with on-site interviews, workshops, career fairs, meetings and daily interactions with students and career service professionals.

 “USM is a vital asset for the people of Maine," said University of Maine System Board Chair James Erwin in Wednesday's news release. 

'Bold, strategic investment'

Erwin, a law partner at Pierce Atwood in Portland, added the USM President Glenn Cummings and his team "have brought forward a bold, strategic investment in the heart of the state’s economic hub. We appreciate their hard work and vision and will be closely tracking how the project improves public higher education capacity to serve students and employers.”

The Portland Commons Housing Project is projected to be cash-flow positive in year one with a commitment from USM to direct free cash flow to capital expenditures to address deferred maintenance in other campus facilities.  

The resolution adopted Wednesday includes survey data on the demand for housing among students, budget details, and background on financial projections and project development.

University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy said the System's board of trustees will get an update next month on student housing reinvestment strategies for universities in Farmington and Presque Isle.

"These projects have the potential to develop nearly 400 units of modern housing in support of student attraction and retention strategies at two of our rural residential campuses," he said.

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