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September 1, 2020

UMA opens second-ever dorm at Hallowell's Stevens Commons

A 19th century brick two-story building with white trim and nicely landscaped lawn Photo / Maureen Milliken Erskine Hall, the University of Maine at Augusta's second student residence, opened last week at Hallowell's Stevens Commons.

A year after the University of Maine at Augusta opened its first-ever student residence, the college has opened a second one at Stevens Commons in Hallowell.

The two student residences are part of the developing mixed-use complex, a 10-minute drive down Interstate 95 from the north Augusta campus. Both Erskine Hall and Stevens Hall, the dorm that opened last year, are owned by Mastway Development, of Hallowell, and leased to UMA.

Mastway, owned by Matt Morrill, bought the nine-building, 63-acre complex on Winthrop Street in Hallowell in 2016 for $215,000, and Erskine Hall is the sixth building to be developed on the site.

While the dorms are designed for a total of 82 students between the two, this year's occupancy at both residence halls will be 58 students and six residential life staff members (five students and one professional staff), in conformity with University of Maine System and CDC pandemic guidelines, the school said in a news release.

UMA has 2,338 students, and housing was available to returning residential students, as well as new full-time matriculated students through an application and lottery process. 

The $4 million renovation is part of UMA's focus on attracting and retaining students from more far-reaching places. UMA  has historically been a commuter college, but increasingly, students have come from elsewhere. They've found area lodging with help from UMA, but with a tight Augusta rental housing market, the residence will make things much easier, officials said last year when Stevens Hall opened.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for all involved,” said UMA President Rebecca Wyke. “The addition of this second residence hall will expand the opportunities for UMA students. We are grateful to our external partners and their thoughtful restoration of Stevens, and now Erskine Halls.”  

Part of a brick building in the foreground and across a landscaped lawn another three-story brick building in the back and shuttle bus that says Augusta Moose on it
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Stevens Hall, left, the first-ever student residence at the University of Maine at Augusta, opened a year ago and Erskine Hall, in the background, opened last week.

Moving on from 'commuter school'

Wyke said when Stevens Hall opened that the college has heard from students in recent years that safe, affordable off-campus housing is a major concern. College officials also have said they don't think the commute between Stevens Commons and the UMA campus, near the Augusta Civic Center, will be an issue for students. The trip, either by Interstate 95 or through Augusta, takes 10 to 15 minutes. The school's architecture program is in downtown Augusta.

Jonathan Henry, UMA vice president of enrollment management and marketing, told Mainebiz that having school housing has increased interest in the college from students from outside the Augusta area, particularly in its architecture and aviation courses. UMA also has started a bachelor's degree nursing program, with 80 students enrolled in the program last year, and a cybersecurity program.

The renovated student apartments in Stevens and Erskine halls feature one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with private bedrooms and open layouts, along with a kitchen, dining area and bathroom. Additional amenities on site include a lounge, laundry and a fitness center. The housing is within walking distance of downtown Hallowell.

The site was once the State Industrial School for Girls, later renamed Stevens School, which closed in 1970. After that, it became state offices, but had been mostly vacant since 2003, when state offices were moved out. Morrill bought the campus four years ago.

Morrill told Mainebiz last year that Erskine, built in 1897, was in the roughest condition of any of the buildings, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Two of the buildings Morrill has renovated on the site — Stevens Hall and the Administration Building — have won Maine Preservation Honor Awards

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