by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
ORONO — The University Credit Union, a trusted fixture in the lives of Orono residents and University of Maine students since 1966, will open officially its new headquarters at the corner of Main Street and Bennoch Road during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 6, during Orono Festival Day. The event will include a camping package and other give aways, building tours, W106.5 radio remote broadcast and food all day.
University Credit Union President and Ceo Matt Walsh said the company chose to hold the Grand Opening during Orono Festival Day also to celebrate the fact that the new building is a collaboration between the town of Orono and the credit union.
The credit union unofficially opened for business in its new building on Aug. 18. It is located on the former site of the historic Katahdin building, constructed of brick in the 1820s, which was destroyed by fire in June 2009. It took less just about a year from groundbreaking to Grand Opening.
“The University Credit Union has a rich heritage,” said Walsh, who has headed the credit union since 2006.
What began as a business housed in a rolling file cabinet that lived on the third floor of Hauck Auditorium at the University of Maine, operated mostly by volunteers, Walsh explained, has grown into an entity with more than 26,000 members in Maine, throughout the United States and other parts of the world, with assets of $250 million.
“Originally, University Credit Union was set up to serve the university [of Maine], and that’s still our core,” said Walsh, an alumni of Husson University and the University of Maine. “We’ve never wavered from our original charter to serve the students, employees and alumni of the university, and their families, and anyone who lives and works in the town of Orono. That’s why coming to downtown Orono is so important to us. Many [in Orono] have been our customers forever. Students take us with them when they graduate.” Online and mobile technology make it possible for customers to live far away and still do business with University Credit Union, he said.
Some credit union members, Walsh said, also will recall when the business was housed in the basement of UMaine’s Coburn Hall.
“We have realized a lot of growth over the years,” he said. That growth included opening a facility on UMaine’s Rangeley Road in 1987, and branches on Forest Avenue in Portland in 1995, on Union Street in Bangor in 2006, in Farmington and Portland in 2007, in the basement of the UMaine Student Union, University of Maine Presque Isle in 2010 and a loan operations facility in Scarborough.
The new University Credit Union headquarters is a structure of 18,000 square feet comprising three wings fronted by a spacious public plaza embellished with a granite sculpture created for the town of Orono during the the Schoodic Sculpture Symposium in 2012. It also includes lighted granite seating arranged in a circle around the sculpture.
One outstanding feature of the building is a clock tower, which will keep residents of Orono and university students on time as they go about the tasks of their day. WBRC Architects Engineers of Bangor, designers of the new building, designed its roof pitch to conform to roof pitches of many downtown Orono buildings so that the building design echos the architectural ambience of downtown. Sheridan Corp. of Portland and Fairfield constructed the building.
The interior of the building has a softly modern feel that is inviting and pleasant to be in.
“I believe it’s the first new building constructed in downtown Orono in fifty years,” Walsh said.
The building is a collaboration between the town of Orono and the credit union, with the town underwriting the cost of an 88-space parking lot on Bennoch Road behind the building and beyond the credit union’s drive-through service area; the credit union assuming the cost of the building construction; and the two parties sharing the cost of developing the public plaza. The parking area will be used by both bank employees and customers, and by the town. “We are surrounded by a village that needs parking space,” Walsh said. “We worked together on what would be constructed.”
With so much growth since the inception of the credit union, it now requires 90 employees to support its operations, Walsh said. The new building houses the credit union’s operations offices, call center, information technology department, administrative offices, executive offices, several conference rooms, employee break room and its retail branch managed by Cathy Philbrick. There also is 2,400 square feet of space on the lower level fronting Main Street that is available for lease to a retail, nonprofit or other business entity.
Public response to the new building, said Amy Irish, assistant vice president of member development, has been “overwhelming in support. People are using the plaza,” she said. “They stop by with positive comments and thank us.”
The credit union’s retail branch on Rangeley Road continues its operations as does the branch on the lower level of UMaine’s Student Union.
University Credit Union business hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; and 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays. The ATM is available 24/7. For information about the credit union and its services, call 800-696-8628 or go to ucu.maine.edu.