Bowdoin College seeks OK for new dorm, administration building in Brunswick

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BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College is seeking approval from the Planning Board for two projects totalling about $3.4 million that will expand its residential and administrative facilities.

On Feb. 25, the Planning Board will review Bowdoin’s final plan for the $1.2 million conversion of a two-story, 9,000-square-foot former retirement home at 52 Harpswell Road into a 35-student, chem-free resident hall. 

The board will also review the college’s sketch plan for a $2.4 million, three-story, 3,440-square-foot administrative office building to replace a building at 216 Maine St. that used to house a travel agency and flower shop.

Bowdoin’s planned conversion of a former retirement home into a residence hall was made possible last year after the Town Council amended its zoning ordinance at the request of the college. The Mixed Use 3 Zone, where the Harpswell Road building is located, previously didn’t allow college residence halls.

At the time, the zoning change faced some concerns from neighbors who were worried about the residence hall’s potential impact on the area.

However, S. Catherine Longley, Bowdoin treasurer and senior vice president for finance and administration, said the college has been working with neighbors since then and believes their concerns have been addressed. 

Bowdoin was not required to get board approval for the renovations, but decided to go to the board anyway. Longley said that all abutting neighbors have been invited to next week’s meeting.

“It was in good faith that we had been before the Town Council with the zoning change, and we thought it was the right thing to do to share the final plan with the community,” she said. “I think the town was concerned about the efforts with neighbors and this will allow us to share the landscaping plan with public.” 

Longley said work on the residence hall could begin sometime this month, and it will be ready for student occupancy by August.

“We always have a need for more quality housing close to campus so it’s a strategic location,” she said. “The building is in very nice shape.”

No major changes are being planned for the former retirement home, Longley said, but there will be a new garden and walking path in the back of the building, leading to a college parking lot on Coffin Street. She added that the property will include fencing and perimeter buffers.

Since the Planning Board is only reviewing Bowdoin’s sketch plan for the new administration building, the college will have to come back at a later date to have its final plan approved.

The proposed Maine Street building will house Bowdoin’s human resources, controller and financial aid departments. The two latter departments were previously in the former McLellan Building at 85 Union St., home of the new Town Hall, which will continue to have Bowdoin offices on the third floor.

The two departments are currently operating on the second floor of Brunswick Station at 16 Station Ave., which previously housed the town’s Council Chambers  and Bowdoin’s Dance Department.

The Dance Department is now at the college’s new Edwards Center for Arts and Dance, which was formerly Longfellow Elementary School. It was conveyed from the town in 2011 in exchange for the 85 Union St. building.

If the building plan receives the necessary approvals from the Planning Board, Longley said she expects construction will begin in April and be finished in November.

The Feb. 25 Planning Board meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at the new Town Hall, 85 Union St.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.