University to let lease expire at Baxter lot

Alex Greenlee | The Free Press

Posted on October 15, 2012 in News
By Kirsten Sylvain, and Nathan Mooney

USM's lease on the offices and parking lot at 15 Baxter Blvd. will expire at the end of October.
Alex Greenlee | The Free Press
USM's lease on the offices and parking lot at 15 Baxter Blvd. will expire at the end of October.

USM’s lease on an office building and its parking lot at 15 Baxter Blvd. will be allowed to expire at the end of this month.The property was the site of 70-plus overflow parking spaces close to campus, one of few secondary options to the often-full parking garage.

The building at 15 Baxter Blvd. currently houses the Muskie Survey Research Center that provides technical support in data collection, and the Office of Sponsored programs, which provides links to funded research opportunities. Both offices will be relocated to recently vacated space on Chamberlain Ave. The property is currently listed for lease with CBRE, a multinational commercial real estate company. A brochure from their corporate website says the property has “easy access and extraordinary parking,” citing 72 spaces included in the monthly lease of $5,950. The property has been leased on a month-to-month basis since its last year-long lease ran out at the end of June.

Bob Caswell, director of Public Affairs for USM, said letting the lease run out was “an easy decision,” citing the high cost of tenancy. The lease alone for the property and the attached lot is $7,437.50 per month. USM has also been responsible for upkeep costs, heating, lighting, plowing and janitorial. The impact of the loss of the overflow lot was a consideration, but financially, ending the lease “makes a lot of sense,” said Caswell. A Public Affairs email regarding the office and parking lot closure will be sent out to USM faculty, students and staff during the week of Oct. 15.

The issue of parking at USM is familiar to Chris Camire, student senate chair. The senate has recently been discussing free public parking in the garage. Some senators voiced disagreement with the policy when students pay for their share, and the spots fill up fast.

“We can’t get parking there,” said Camire, generalizing student sentiment on the issue. The Student Senate placed the question, “should the public pay for parking at USM?” in the Woodbury Student Center the week of Oct. 8 with markers nearby, encouraging students to leave a comment. The response was “overwhelmingly yes,” according to Camire.

USM’s Chief Financial Officer Richard Campbell said it didn’t make sense to maintain the expensive lease and upkeep of the property when relocations and improvements over the summer made new spaces available for departments currently located at 15 Baxter Blvd. USM’s annual parking study indicated that the parking spaces at 15 Baxter Blvd weren’t heavily utilized and that the available parking at USM Portland can still meet requirements, said Caswell. He is aware that some students, faculty and staff might be used to parking at the off-campus lot, and there will be a visible campaign toward the end of the month alerting the USM community that those spaces will no longer be available, “we don’t want anything to go wrong,” said Campbell.

An employee involved with the parking garage regretted the loss of the overflow lot, saying that he “always had an answer for people” when they couldn’t find a spot in the garage. Signs at the main parking garage currently directing cars to the overflow lot at 15 Baxter Blvd. will be coming down, as well as USM signs at the site, said Kevin Conger, USM’s Chief of Public Safety.