Real estate swap answers space needs for Brunswick and Bowdoin College

Posted Sept. 26, 2011, at 7:11 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Bowdoin College and the town of Brunswick are in the final stages of a real estate swap that will open new avenues for future expansion of the college and solve a longstanding shortage of municipal facilities space for the town.

The Brunswick Town Council will consider the arrangement in executive session during its regular meeting on Monday and possibly take a final vote on the terms of the deal, which have been approximately two years in the making, according to Town Manager Gary Brown.

“The terms have been agreed to by both parties and this plan has been publicly vetted,” said Brown. “The question will be whether the council will have a comfort level with taking a vote after an executive session or whether they’ll wait for a standalone meeting.”

Under the terms of the deal, Bowdoin would take ownership of the former Longfellow Elementary School on Longfellow Avenue, which borders the college campus. In exchange, the town would take ownership of the college’s McLellan Building on Union Street, which is located a block from Maine Street and adjacent to a major new downtown development known as Maine Street Station.

The plan, according to Brown, is to move the Brunswick town offices, including council chambers and the community television station, into the first two floors of the McLellan Building within three years. Bowdoin would continue to use the top floor of the building for art studios and instruction space, said Catherine Longley, the college’s treasurer and senior vice president for finance and administration. She said the college’s trustees approved the pact in May of this year.

“There are lots of provisions associated with the deal,” said Longley. Among them are that the town will pay for hazardous material removal at the school, zone it for a college use other than a residence hall and commit to making safety improvements along College Street, which runs through campus.

The Longfellow School has been appraised at less than $1 million while the McLellan Building is worth $4.3 million.

Longley said the college has not yet made decisions about what to do with the former elementary school.

Brunswick has been seeking an answer to its municipal facilities crunch for years. For a time the council and other town boards met in the former Brunswick High School, but that has been torn down and replaced with a new elementary school. Since then the council and other boards have met in leased space at Maine Street Station.

Construction of the new school eliminated the need for Longfellow School, which in turn made the deal with Bowdoin possible.

As for the town offices on Federal Street, Brown said no decisions have been made about what to do with them. Integral in that decision is the fate of the Brunswick Police Department, which is in the building’s basement. The town is moving toward construction of a new police station at the corner of Pleasant and Stanwood streets. Property there already has been purchased, but most of the details of the project have not been cemented, including how it will be funded, said Brown.

Monday night’s council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at 16 Station Ave. in Brunswick.

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