Times Record: University College to move from Bath (Jan. 28, 2014)

BATH

University College is moving from its current location at 9 Park St., to join Southern Maine Community College at Brunswick Landing.

The University of Maine System Board of Trustees approved the move at its meeting Monday in Bangor.

The move will help University College “use resources more efficiently” as it works with SMCC — already a tenant at the former naval base — to educate students, said Sheri Stevens, executive director of administration at the University of Maine at Augusta, which runs University College.

The university system will lease 6,800 square feet in Brunswick in the south wing on the first floor of the Orion Building, officials said. It currently leases 12,960 square feet in Bath.

Stevens said the relocation is expected to cost $350,000, paid from a UMA reserve account. Renovations to the Orion Building will cost $300,000, Stevens said, with additional money earmarked for moving and other expenses.

“We’re working with an architect now on a redesign of our portion of the Orion Building,” Stevens said, saying officials still have to work out details of the floor plan. “Then we pack boxes and get going.”

The college’s lease in Bath ends in June; Stevens said she hoped to have University College moved in to Brunswick by the start of the fall semester. She said officials would investigate lease extensions in Bath if the need arises.

The university system is currently paying more than $130,000 annually for the space in Bath.

UMA officials informed the city of Bath a year ago it intended to leave 9 Park St. after its lease expired, Stevens said.

Subsequently, in May 2013 the city sold the building — the former Mid Coast Hospital, now known as the Midcoast Center for Higher Education — to a Phippsburg developer for $799,000. The multi-tenant building is now back on the market, offered at $1.6 million.

An agenda summary provided to UMS trustees said University College has been co-located with SMCC at 9 Park St., for the past 10 years. SMCC has occupied the Orion Building since shortly after Brunswick Naval Air Station closed.

“The relocation of University College to the Orion Building will further enhance the two institutions’ ability to collaborate and share resources to meet the educational needs for postsecondary students and to conduct educational outreach in the Brunswick community,” the agenda summary reads. “Resources such as classroom space, student support services and computer equipment will be shared between the two institutions whenever practicable, thus eliminating unnecessary duplication. Discussions about how the proposed relocation of the center to Brunswick will lead to expanded collaborative opportunities for both public institutions have already begun.”

Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Steve Levesque said his agency isn’t part of the transaction. As an existing Brunswick Landing tenant, SMCC had the authority to forge the deal on its own, he said.

Founded in 1989, University College is a University of Maine division serving online and adult-education students. It also has a presence in East Millinocket, Ellsworth, Houlton, Norway, Rockland, Rumford and Saco.

In Bath, the campus employs four full-time people and one part-time staffer. On a given day, 20 faculty also work there. This semester, approximately 350 students are enrolled, according to Dennis Unger, director of the college.

Unger said the move to Brunswick Landing will cement its successful collaboration with SMCC in Bath.

“There’s a synergy that comes from co-locating with SMCC that is a major driver of the move,” Unger said.

Many University College coursesare offered online, but Unger stressed the importance of a bricks-andmortar presence.

“We have a lot of students who get a community college degree (at SMCC) who then start with us to pursue a bachelor’s,” Unger said. “A lot of students also mix formats — online and classroom. We feel it’s important to sustain that (campus) learning environment.”

The mission of University College is “to serve as a gateway to the emerging economy for Maine people unable to attend a University of Maine System campus and for businesses, schools, government and nonprofit organizations statewide.”

“University College provides access to the resources of the University of Maine System in Maine communities and online and helps faculty design and use innovative teaching and delivery methods,” its mission statement says.

The rent for the new location will be $10.06 per square foot — the same rate paid in Bath. That’s $68,400 per year — a reduction of approximately 48 percent from current annual rent in the larger Bath space.

The university also will be responsible for custodial and telecommunications services.

Officials see a total cost of $642,000 over the first five years, “approximately the same as the cost of remaining in Bath, though with a substantial reduction in annual operating costs, the benefits of new space, a landmark location and the advantage of remaining colocated,” according to a summary provided to trustees.

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