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USM asking for $65 million for Arts Hub at Portland campus

The University of Southern Maine (USM) is hoping to build an arts hub in Portland that will cost around $65 million to fund. In order for this arts hub to thrive, it must receive outside support from the community in order to prove that the benefits will be worth the cost.

Throughout the early planning and designing phases, it is expected that there would be a 1,000-seat concert hall; a 250-seat recital hall; a black box theater, which is a performance space with black walls and a leveled floor, allowing for the ability to provide flexibility when configuring the stage and audience seating; art galleries; rehearsal spaces; studios; and a lobby area and cafe spot, according to the Bangor Daily News (BDN).

For this project to make its way to the USM campus, it is estimated by the university that approximately $60 to $70 million will need to be raised in order to cover the project as well as set up a reserve account for early operations.

“The Portland location will place USM at the heart of the region’s thriving arts and cultural community, expose USM talent to larger audiences, and enhance the university’s value within the area’s growing creative economy. It’s time to build a Center for the Arts that matches the caliber of our students and the excellence of our programs — a dream that has been over 30 years in the making,” the school said in its pitch to the board’s agenda materials.

The early talks about this project began in November, when it was approved to use up to $1 million to design and plan the project as well as determine possible locations.

The college also has other costly construction projects that need to be taken into account, including demolishing or selling outdated buildings, which could take precedence over this proposal. This includes two residence halls build around the 1970s, Dikey and Wood. The two buildings are located on USM’s campus in Gorham and are set to be demolished, as renovations to the building will cost too much and the buildings have not been occupied since 2014.

A facilities consulting firm called Sightlines has found that the USM has too much floor space for a system of its size, according to the BDN. This is also a prominent issue at the UMaine campus in Orono, where several buildings are vacant and others are outdated and in clear need of new equipment.

A possible solution for the USM Portland campus mentioned was selling up to seven buildings that were previously used as residential buildings to decrease the floor space.

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