Apr. 7—The University of New England announced this week that it has received $5 million in federal funds to help it relocate its College of Osteopathic Medicine from Biddeford to its Stevens Avenue campus in Portland.
UNE said in a release that the $5 million is a pivotal step in moving the state’s only medical school to Portland. The total cost of the project will be $93 million, according to university spokesperson Sarah Delage.
Project costs include construction of the 110,000 square foot Harold and Bibby Alfond Center for Health Sciences, road improvements that will include a new walking and biking path, and construction of a multipurpose facilities building to temporarily house the Maine Army National Guard, which must move from Innovation Hall (the former armory) on Stevens Avenue before construction can start.
Delage said the $5 million from the federal omnibus spending bill will be combined with a $30 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation to help pay relocation and construction costs. The university is still raising the additional money needed to finish the project.
Relocating the College of Osteopathic Medicine will allow UNE to admit more students to the school and lead to consolidation of all its health profession programs on one campus. Those programs include the dental school, physician assistant program, nursing, social work, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, dental hygiene and nurse anesthesia.
The space the College of Osteopathic Medicine occupied on UNE’s Biddeford campus will be used to expand undergraduate and graduate programs in marine sciences, business and entrepreneurship, and criminology.
In May 2021, UNE President James Herbert testified before a congressional committee about Maine’s workforce shortages and the need to strengthen its health care workforce amid a national shortage of nurses and physicians. Since then, Herbert said, he has worked closely with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to secure funding for the relocation.
“As the nation’s oldest state, Maine cannot afford to lose valuable health care workers like we are seeing nationally,” Herbert said. “Merging all of UNE’s health professions programs on one, integrated campus will support Maine’s health care infrastructure for years to come.”
UNE still needs to get zoning approval for the project from the city of Portland.
“We are working with the city on this approval, and do not anticipate any significant problems,” Delage said in an email.
The university in 2020 said it wanted to start the Portland Planning Board review of the project by the middle of 2021, break ground in 2022, and have the new facility open for the 2023-24 school year, but Delage said Wednesday that the schedule had to be pushed back. The current schedule calls for a project groundbreaking to take place late this summer or fall.
UNE operates two campuses in Maine as well as a study abroad campus in Tangier, Morocco. Its Portland campus is located on Stevens Avenue between Morrills Corner and the Deering Center neighborhood.