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Transformation of former hotel, college dormitory in downtown Portland nearly complete

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Transformation of former hotel, college dormitory in downtown Portland nearly complete

PORTLAND — The west end of the Arts District should soon experience an influx of residents, when a former college dormitory on Congress Street reopens as a completely renovated apartment complex.

The building at 645 Congress St. includes 56 apartments, comprised of one-bedroom units and studios. Developer Bayside Maine purchased the former dormitory and hotel from the University of Southern Maine in October 2008 and began renovations early last summer.

The renovations included removing two wings at the back of the building and adding zinc-coated copper and bay windows to the exterior of the building.

The apartments have been overhauled, with walls removed and reconfigured to create better space than the dorm rooms provided.

New insulation and windows make the building very energy efficient, said Greg Shinberg, a partner in Bayside Maine with Justin Alfond.

Some of the original wood floors were preserved, while other units have new carpeting. All of the apartments are equipped with new appliances.

"All the units are different," Shinberg said. They range from 400 square feet to about 750 square feet. Rents begin at $700, although Shinberg said the average is about $850, and that includes heat, hot water, wireless access and a parking spot. There's a $75 a month discount if a resident doesn't require parking.

Windows at the rear of the building offer views to Back Cove. The front windows provide a bird's-eye view of Congress Street.

While the residences have a new feeling, the common halls and rooms retain a lot of the molding and curved walls most likely original to the late-19th century building.

Shinberg said he and Alfond wanted to make sure the building was accommodating to people who want to live downtown. To that end, a designated bicycle entry and storage room are in the basement, along with a sitting room with wireless and laundry facilities.

On the main floor, there is about 12,000 square feet of retail space, some of which the Local Sprouts Cooperative will occupy with a cafe later this winter.

For about 20 years, until 2007, 645 Congress St. was used as an in-town dormitory for the University of Southern Maine, Maine College of Art and Southern Maine Community College. Before that the building was primarily a hotel, although for a short time it served as subsidized housing.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net