Former Brunswick school revived as Bowdoin College arts center

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BRUNSWICK — A former elementary school reborn as Bowdoin College’s Edwards Center for Arts and Dance will open to the public on Saturday.

The college will hold an open house at the 21 Longfellow Ave. building from 1-3 p.m. The entrance is on South Street.

The event will give visitors a glimpse of the $6.5 million in renovations that transformed the former Longfellow Elementary School into the college’s new hub for dance and arts programs.

For the first time, all of the programs are now under one roof.

“Facilities for visual arts and dance at the college had been spread all over town, in several buildings on campus, around campus, at (Brunswick) Station, and in Fort Andross,” said Cristle Collins Judd, Bowdoin dean of academic affairs.

“The Edwards Center brings all these activities – painting, drawing, sculpture, print-making, digital media, photography, and dance – under one roof,” she continued. “The new building allows program expansion and includes a state-of-the art digital media studio, which will enhance our curricular offerings.”

Renovations, which began in December 2012 and ended in August, increased the building’s footprint from nearly 39,000 square feet to 45,000.

The center was named after Robert H. and Blythe Bickel Edwards, Bowdoin’s 13th president and his wife, Judd said, “in recognition for the foundation laid during President Edwards’ term for many of the recent arts initiatives at the college.”

Bowdoin’s acquisition of the former school in December 2011 was one of several moving parts in the town’s bid for new municipal facilities.

Months before the conveyance, the Town Council agreed to swap the school building for 85 Union St., which is still occupied by Bowdoin and will become the new Town Hall by next spring.

The council is waiting on renovation costs for the Union Street building, known as the McLellan Building, before deciding whether to begin renovations earlier than planned.

If the council decides to fast-track renovations, it would have to leave the Council Chambers in Room 217 of Brunswick Station by Dec. 9. At the same time, Bowdoin would have to leave the first two floors of the McLellan Building.

That would allow construction manager Warren Construction, which has been hired by the town and Bowdoin, to simultaneously perform renovations on Room 217 for new college offices and the new Council Chambers at 85 Union St., which is expected to be ready by February 2014.

If everything works as planned, the town could leave the current Town Hall building at 28 Federal St. by March 2014.

As part of the building swap agreement with Bowdoin, the college will continue to occupy the Union Street building’s third floor, rent free, for 10 years.

The transition would clear the way for Wiscasset-based Coastal Enterprises to begin demolition of the Town Hall and Recreation Center properties at 28 and 30 Federal St. and begin construction of its new headquarters.

The town has already signed an agreement with Brunswick Development Corp. to sell the 30 Federal St. property for $225,000.

The town has also agreed to convey the 28 Federal St. property to BDC in exchange for what is now the new Police Station at 85 Pleasant St.

The two agreements allowed BDC to sign a $300,000 contract with CEI for the two Federal Street properties. The deal is expected to close by April 2014, and will allow CEI to relocate its Portland and Wiscasset offices by early 2015.

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

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Bowdoin College’s Edwards Center for Arts and Dance