University of New England to acquire Portland armory

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PORTLAND — The University of New England has struck a deal with the Maine Army National Guard to acquire the armory at 772 Stevens Ave.

The two entities agreed to a land swap: UNE will purchase land in Scarborough, and turn it over to the Guard to build a new readiness center. In return, UNE will get the Stevens Avenue property and expand its Westbrook College campus by 2018.

Dwaine Drummond, director of facilities for the National Guard, said the 60-year-old  readiness center and vehicle maintenance shop “is really, for our purposes, not fiscally feasible to spend money on,” and construction funds for a new armory would be available by 2018.

The new readiness center would be on 24.6 undeveloped acres in Scarborough and 12 acres in Saco at the municipal border off of U.S. Route 1, according to UNE’s contract zoning application to the town of Scarborough. The entrance to the property would be in Saco. 

Preliminary plans for the replacement facility include a 50,000-square-foot readiness center and 29,000-square-foot maintenance shop, with administrative space, training facilities, and storage space for vehicles and equipment.

UNE’s application to Scarborough indicates the center will employ 24 people full-time, and train about 100 National Guard members one weekend per month.

Will Dionne, planning and programing manager for the Guard, said the Scarborough readiness center will cost $17.5 million to build, to be paid for from the U.S. Army construction budget.

Once the land acquisition is complete, the National Guard will begin a traffic study and environmental assessments, followed six to eight months later by a planning charrette.

Dionne said construction plans must also consider an easement to a part of the Scarborough parcel that abuts land conserved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

If construction begins by 2018, the new center could be complete by 2020. 

The Scarborough Town Council on Wednesday will consider a contract zoning agreement to facilitate the land swap and construction, because the proposed location is in a rural farming zone.

The contract zone process is expected to take several months.

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or scarignan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.

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The University of New England will acquire the Maine Army National Guard Armory at 772 Stevens Ave. in Portland. 

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