A plan to provide off-campus housing for USM students in Portland moves ahead

In an effort to relieve a local housing crunch for students, the University of Maine System this week provisionally approved a plan to lease two floors for student housing in the Bayside Village Apartment Complex on Marginal Way.

Officials said this deal will serve as a temporary stopgap until the university can build housing on its Portland campus.

“With our enrollment growing and Portland rents rising, it is essential we offer lower cost affordable housing for both our graduate and undergraduate students,” said USM President Glen Cummings.

The university in 2011 sold a 280-bed dorm in Portland for $2.2 million in an effort to make the residence program more cost-effective, according to a MaineBiz report from the time.  

Now, USM, is looking to lease 200 beds worth of housing in the Bayside complex’s four-bedroom units for two years, with the possibility of three one-year extensions. Student rent would be $750 a month for the first year, and based on financial projections, the school should break roughly even on the $9.5 million deal, University of Maine System spokesman Dan Demeritt said.

A board of trustees committee voted in favor of the plan on Wednesday. The full board will vote on it later this month.  

Near Trader Joe’s, Bayside Village was built in 2007 as private student housing but struggled to fill the apartments and pay down more than $20-million in debt, the Portland Press Herald reported. It was sold twice since then and is now owned by Blue Vista Capital Management LLC.

During the same period, to contend with a growing deficit and and shrinking enrollment, USM made deep cuts in its faculty and academic offerings.

But with a bump in out-of-state enrollment and a new program launching, Cummings hopes the rental deal will provide the university with a path forward.  

It’s a “solution to an immediate need and will provide a smooth transition to where we want to go,” he said.