Imagine pulling into the Portland campus five minutes before class and easing your car into one of the many open spots – in the parking garage. Imagine getting out of your car and actually being able to open the door without hitting the car two inches away from you. Then picture not having to brave the harsh Maine weather and Bedford Street traffic to get to your destination – you could just take the skywalk. Or maybe it is a nice spring day. Imagine walking down a pedestrian promenade totally closed to vehicular traffic, then think about how nice it would be to walk to the student center surrounded by trees and flowers and pathways instead of dodging cars in the student center parking lot.
While President Richard Pattenaude insists that the University’s “master plan” is a “long term vision that will be updated and changed,” the layouts are rather extensive and at the end of the last phase transform the campus into a larger, more student friendly environment.
The campus will be equipped with skywalks, more classroom buildings, and pathways for students to walk. In fact, BedfordStreet is gone by the second phase of the plan, turned into a pedestrian promenade.
The University presented its “Campus Master Plan” to the Portland Planning Board Jan. 9 in hopes of breaking ground for the first phase of the plan by this spring.
“This is a large scale plan of what is possible. We want to do things now that will make sense in 20 years,” said Pattenaude. “Our expectation is that this will stimulate conversation and our next step will be some neighborhood conversation as well as some campus conversation. Keep in mind that this is a 20-year plan, and the final step is 20 years down the line.”
The University went before the Planning Board to get approval for an addition to the Science Building on the Portland campus.
“Essentially they asked us for a site-plan review for the bio-science addition,” said Sam Andrews, chief financial officer at USM. “Everybody has to submit them when they are planning to build or renovate in the city because of factors like water runoff and traffic and such.”
While the Science Building addition is the only immediate change to campus, the master plan includes all of the changes and improvements the University hopes to see over the next 20 years. These changes have been put into four phases.
The first phase is expected to take place within the next five years and includes the Science Building expansion as well as turning the old Steego Building, currently the USM Police station, into a new home for the Muskie school. An 1,150 space parking garage with a community education facility and 500-seat lecture hall attached to it is also in the plan. While the Science Building already has the $7.5 million it needs for the addition, the other projects in phase 1 are still waiting for funding.
“We submitted a $9 million request to the Board of Trustees and they in turn have submitted it to Governor King. The governor now must recommend the proposal to the Legislature – and they decide,” said Andrews. In addition to state funding, the University plans to do private fund raising to pay for these new improvements.
“Phase 1 is things immediately on the horizon that we hope to get done in the next five years. We say five years because things such as funding, design, and construction need to be taken in to account,” said Dave Early, director of Facilities Management.
Many students interviewed on campus didn’t know about the master plan or even the current plan to add on to the Science Building. Kimberly Coon, a junior biology major, believes that expansion is necessary at a school like USM, where the student population is continually on the rise.
“I didn’t know about the addition to the Science Building but I think that a new facility is needed here. It’s about time we expanded it.”
Most students feel that a parking garage is the next necessary step for USM.
“I think it’s nice that they are finally thinking about building one, but that really doesn’t help me since I’m graduating this year and getting parking tickets for parking on the road because the $25 I spent on a USM pass doesn’t do much good when the parking lots are always overflowing,” said Kay Crawford, a senior psychology major.
For now the University is trying to improve the campus one step at a time, and much of this improvement will depend on funding and city approval. Still, Pattenaude feels the master plan is a step in the right direction.
“We look forward to ongoing discussion on and off campus about details of this draft plan. Everyone has to remember it is a 20-year vision subject to changes and modifications. It does help guide our thoughts and has some very attractive aspects.”
Staff writer Kate Bucklin can be reached at: [email protected]
Addition on Science Building
Community Education Facility
500-seat lecture hall
Partial closing of Surrenden Street
Transforming campus center parking lot into an open-space quadrangle (for walking)
Two new academic buildings
Closing off portion of Brighton Avenue
Addition to Law School building
Expansion of campus center
New physical plant
Closing off of Bedford Street (for promenade)
Second entrance to library
Streetscape were current Bedford street offices are
Two new academic buildings
New administration building