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Plans are in the works to transform three former Nasson College dorms into housing, creating 83 market-rate apartments in the Sanford village of Springvale.
Much of the former campus has been repurposed. But these are the last remaining vacant buildings.
Nate Green and Chris Marshall, who have done smaller apartment renovations in southern Maine and recently completed the mixed-use Yarmouth Commons in Yarmouth, gave Mainebiz a tour of what former students still call "Camp Nasson in the Pines," aptly named for its location in a wooded area about a mile from what was the main campus.
Nasson College, which opened in 1912 as Nasson Institute and closed in 1983, at one time had nearly 1,000 students on the campus. The small, liberal arts school was a bustling place.
At the time the college closed, the three dorms — Pryor-Hussey Hall, Fobes Hall and Hanscom Hall — were all relatively new, having been built between 1964 and 1970. The park-like setting of Pryor-Hussey, Upper I and Upper II, as they were known — away from the main campus — made the buildings ideal party dorms. Alumni pages are loaded with memories of “Camp Nasson” and “keggers” on the Upper Campus.
But since the college failed, citing factors like the high cost of energy, the dorms have largely been vacant. The previous owner lived in one part of Fobes Hall from 1990 until the sale went through this fall.
Green and Marshall, who run Portland-based GreenMars Real Estate Services, bought the properties through a Craigslist offering, they said. The three buildings had been on and off the market over the years.
The dorms are in various stages of decay. The one closest to the road, Pryor-Hussey, was the target of vandals over the years and many of the windows are gone. Fobes Hall had to be cleared of asbestos. The new owners carted off more than 100 mattresses to the dump.
“Everything was in a time warp here,” said Green.
Green and Marshall expect to invest $11 million to rehab the buildings and get them ready for rental.
Hanscom Hall, at the top of the hill, will have 28 units. Features like common areas, with a large fireplace, will be kept in place. Fobes Hall, which was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and has an exterior of seashells mixed in stucco, will have 32 units. Pryor-Hussey Hall, which some say was among the first co-ed dorms in the U.S., will have 23 units.
The properties are within the Sanford tax increment financing district, which will help offset the cost of a new road coming into the property. The pair is working with the Sanford Planning Board now to get a variance for multifamily use.
Even though high energy costs were partially blamed for the college closing — giant oil tanks could be seen on the campus on a recent visit — the new owners plan to install heat pumps.
The dorms will keep the original look — a variation on mid-century modern, with low-angled roofs and common rooms with big, central fireplaces.
The developers plan to have a Nasson College trophy case, with mementos from the college. They plan on keeping the building names.
“We want to keep the original look,” said Green.
The dorms sit on 27 acres, most of which is wooded. Long term, Green and Marshall say they may develop additional housing.
Prior to this, they developed a wedge of land on U.S. Route 1 in Yarmouth, building 18 market-rate apartments and four commercial-retail spaces. Sixteen of the 18 apartments have been rented. Three of the four commercial units are leased.
To finance the Yarmouth development, they opened up roughly a third of the overall cost to investors, who were repaid within 21 months, Green and Marshall said.
With the $11 million Nasson project, they plan to open up $2.95 million of that to investors, through Salt Marsh Capital.
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