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October 17, 2019

USM may move Lewiston campus downtown

Courtesy / USM Lewiston-Auburn College, currently on Westminster Street in Lewiston, may move to a downtown location.

The University of Southern Maine plans to relocate its Lewiston-Auburn College from the outskirts of Lewiston to a new location downtown.

The campus, currently in an industrial area at 51 Westminster St., would move to a still-undetermined site in about three years, USM officials said in a Wednesday news release.

“We believe strongly that relocating our campus to downtown Lewiston will provide meaningful new opportunities and possibilities that will better meet the needs of the Lewiston-Auburn region and its people,” said USM President Glenn Cummings.

The university began discussing the relocation several years ago, Chief Operations Officer Nancy Griffin told Mainebiz in a phone interview.

A downtown location would allow the college to work more closely with Lewiston businesses  and health care facilities, she said. The move would also improve access for LAC’s roughly 400 students — especially those who don’t get to class by automobile.

“We’re trying to serve students where they are,” she said. “Instead of being where there are hundreds of cars, we want to be where there are thousands of pedestrians.”

USM Provost Jeannine Uzzi said in the release that a move downtown will also dovetail with a new academic vision for LAC.

“We are in the process of finalizing an exciting academic vision for LAC that will respond to regional needs in health care delivery,” said Uzzi. “We will also continue working with the University of Maine at Augusta to expand academic offerings, and ensure that our new location includes crucial space for both our Senior College and our Franco-American Collection.”

It’s unclear how much space LAC will seek or where the college will look, although a presentation to employees suggested the Bates Mills Complex as a candidate.

With the growth of its online curriculum, the school may consider a slightly smaller footprint than its current one, according to Griffin.

The plan needs approval by the University of Maine System’s board of trustees, which might happen as early as November, she said. A request-for-proposals would then be issued for a purchase or leasing arrangement. The college would also sell the existing campus, a process that could take 18-24 months.

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