Husson University aims to expand Portland campus with 7-acre purchase

Posted Dec. 20, 2011, at 5:41 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 21, 2011, at 11:45 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Husson University has reached a purchase-and-sale agreement to take over the property of the former Elks Lodge on Congress Street for more than $2 million in an effort to boost the university’s visibility and enrollment in southern Maine.

The purchase would give the university an almost 7-acre parcel at 1945 Congress St.

The current structure will either be renovated or knocked down and replaced with a new building, according to university spokeswoman Amanda Kitchen.

Kitchen said Husson, which is based in Bangor, has operated a campus in Portland for the past 15 years, but it hasn’t been as large or as noticeable a presence as the university would like. Currently, the school leases a location at 220 Maine Mall Road in South Portland.

That facility has space to offer courses for about 300 enrolled students. The new building would provide room for 500, according to Kitchen.

“What we want to do is build a facility to handle that kind of enrollment and have a more campus feel to it,” Kitchen said.

The southern Maine Husson campus offers associate and bachelor’s degree programs, as well as graduate degree coursework in fields such as criminal justice, business and elementary education. Kitchen said the campus has a large population of nontraditional students looking to change their career paths.

Husson also has a satellite campus in Presque Isle.

The $2.05 million sale hinges on whether the city will rezone the area, according to Kitchen. Husson paid a $2,000 processing fee to ask the city to add “college, university, trade school” to the allowed uses for the site.

If that rezoning request isn’t approved and the deal falls flat, the university will look into other properties, Kitchen said.

CORRECTION:

A quote used in an earlier version of this story needs clarification. While the university is considering demolishing the old Elks Lodge at the Congress Street site and replacing it with a new facility, the school also is exploring the possibility of renovating the current building.

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