Cheaper by the quad

Privatized dorms debut in Portland
By DAVE BRADY  |  January 30, 2008
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BUILDING CONNECTIONS: Bayside Village's construction site.

This fall Portland college students will have yet another housing option, one similar in cost to a snazzy apartment in the West End or a kick-ass house in North Deering, but with life a lot more like a dormitory.

Bayside Village, now under construction on Marginal Way, won’t be Maine’s first privately owned apartment complex strictly for college students: That honor goes to Orono’s Orchard Trails, which opened two years ago, housing UMaine-Orono students. But the company behind Bayside, Realty Resources Chartered of Rockport, has a larger pool to draw from than its northern cousin: the University of Southern Maine, St. Joseph’s College, Southern Maine Community College, University of New England, Andover College, and Maine College of Art.

The development is on the middle ground between regular off-campus apartments and dormitory life. The four-story building across from the former Wild Oats store will house 400 students in 100 four-person apartment-style suites, offering parking, WiFi, lounges, a study hall, a courtyard, laundry rooms, and a café. The ground floor has space for two retail shops, one of which will likely be a coffee shop. Realty has already talked to both Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, and is considering renting the other space to a tanning salon or massage therapist.

As far as amenities go, Bayside is roughly comparable to USM’s new premium dorm, ingeniously dubbed “New Hall,” but is less expensive. Bayside’s furnished suites will have four bedrooms and two bathrooms at $725 a head, including utilities, cable, and Internet. Per month, for an all-inclusive apartment with four single bedrooms, USM’s New Hall is $847; its less fabulous Philippi Hall is $702. Both of these, as well as nearly all of USM’s other housing (much of which is cheaper), are in Gorham, which gives Bayside another advantage: location. (Ten miles and 25 minutes can seem like forever, and the traffic is mind-bending.)

Bayside will have “community assistants,” which are “kind of like RAs,” says lease director Lori Mattson, though what role the CAs will play remains to be worked out. One thing they may do is coordinate resident activities, along the lines of dorm events, though they won’t be school-specific. Instead, they’ll involve local businesses. “I’ve talked to Eastern Mountain Sports about running a kayaking clinic,” Mattson says. She has also talked to Planet Fitness about membership discounts, and to Pizza Hut about having free pizza parties during finals week.

There are lots of options for student housing in Portland already: USM’s total bed count is about 1600, SMCC’s is 450 (including a new dorm that just opened), and MECA’s is 140. The USM and MECA dorms in downtown Portland also accept overflow students from SMCC. USM plans to close Portland Hall on Congress Street in the next few years, but university officials say they won’t make that move until an alternative is available.

Of course, the schools’ enrollments are all much higher, and there is demand for more housing. “Until this fall, of 2007, we have always opened with an extra 100 to 150 students over our designed capacity,” says Denise Nelson, USM’s director of residential life. With the additional 300 beds from New Hall, however, USM had more than 100 vacancies last semester.

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