When the residents of Estabrooke Hall move out in May, they will do so knowing they are marking a milestone in University of Maine history.
The building, constructed in 1940 as the women’s dormitory and later revamped as a coed dorm, will not be available as student housing next year, the first step in a process planned to culminate in 2016 with the construction of a new dormitory.
“We’re consolidating our current capacity in residence halls,” said Dan Sturrup, interim director of Auxiliary Services. “There’s almost a 400 capacity [of empty beds] that we aren’t realizing.”
UMaine has beds for 3,661 students, but only 3,267 were filled this year. A combination of taking Estabrooke off the list of dorms, bringing the number from 19 to 18, and of creating “premium singles” in Kennebec, Aroostook and York halls would bring the number of beds available on move-in day next fall to 3,383.
“What we’re doing is starting on new phasing for housing,” Sturrup said. “Because of the economy, it’s hit a bit sooner than expected.”
A strategic plan provided by Sturrup outlines three issues the university hopes to address in relation to student housing. Declining enrollment, outdated room options and increased desire for suite-style options, and concerns about the affordability of any new residence hall are listed.
“We certainly know our current options are outdated and not as desirable” as suite-style apartments in Edith Patch Hall and Doris Twitchell Allen Village, Sturrup said. “We anticipate that will be what our new residence hall will be as well.
“We’re going to offer ‘premium singles,’ and these will be in rooms that initially were doubles,” he added.
The premium singles will feature 30 percent more floor space than traditional singles and will come with a double bed, an easy chair and two bureaus, among other amenities.
Sturrup expects students who select a premium single will be charged $229 more than normal single rates. These changes are expected to bring the number of available single rooms on campus from 387 now to 401 next fall, 120 of which are expected to be premiums.
“If it’s not received well, then certainly we’ll make adjustments,” he said.
Sturrup met with approximately 40 of Estabrooke’s 147 current residents on Monday to talk about the changes. He said reception wasn’t negative overall but one person seemed annoyed that the dorm wouldn’t be available next fall.
“Estabrooke’s obviously a great building,” Sturrup said. “It’s got some charm.”
According to Janet Waldron, UMaine’s vice president for Administration and Finance, and Elaine Clark, UMaine’s director of Facilities Management, Real Estate and Planning, the first floor of Estabrooke will house office space for the Honors College and the Research in STEM Education Center and an “active learning classroom.”
Clark said the university is working to hire a designer for the project, and feedback from Orono code enforcement about the proposed changes has been positive.
The active learning classroom will be tested next fall and is not tied to any department, so students from multiple disciplines will be able to use it.
“The whole concept is to increase the critical thinking abilities of students,” Waldron said, adding faculty will be solicited to provide feedback on the new setup. “If they do, and the students like it, then the idea is to replicate this across campus.”
Clark described the benefits of the classroom, saying the small workstations at round tables and computers connected to a central screen are expected to foster better collaboration among students than the traditional lecture hall experience.
“They’re not as actively involved [in lecture halls] as this model is advancing,” Clark said. “At any point, their work can be displayed on larger screens [in the new classroom].”
The classroom will be housed in Estabrooke’s main ballroom. Offices for the RISE Center will be at the end of the building closer to College Avenue, and offices for the Honors College will be at the end of the building closer to Colvin Hall, which already houses the college.
Waldron was not sure what the upper floors of Estabrooke will be used for.
“It’s too early to tell,” she said. “We haven’t decided what’s going back into Estabrooke.
“We’re intending that construction would be done over the summer,” she added.
Construction costs are not finalized but are expected to fall between $700,000 and $800,000.
“It really has proven more cost-effective to build new residence halls” than renovate existing ones, Sturrup said.
He said the new dorm will likely be built in the same area of campus as Estabrooke, but the exact location hasn’t been identified.