In as little as two weeks, Bowdoin and the Town of Brunswick may reach an agreement on the proposed exchange of the McLellan Building for the now-vacant Longfellow School property.
Town Manager Gary Brown believes that the Town Council will accept the terms of the agreement at its October 3 meeting.
"Then we can go ahead and consummate the transaction," said Brown.
Since last May, when the Board of Trustees approved the exchange of the properties, revised versions of the proposal have bounced back and forth between the College Treasurer's Office and the Town Manager's Office. Now, according to Katy Longley, senior vice president for finance and administration, the ball is in Council's court.
"It's up to the town to vote on, not me," she said.
The trade would give Brunswick the first two floors of the McLellan Building in exchange for the now-vacant Longfellow school and property. This would allow the town to house all of its municipal offices in one location, while they are currently divided between Brunswick Station and 28 Federal Street. The move would make space available for new downtown businesses.
Under the current plan, McLellan—which houses the Bursar's Office and the Office of Communications and Public Affairs—would not be vacated until early 2014, giving Bowdoin time to determine where to relocate staff members. Assuming the Town Council signs off on the deal, the College could take possession of Longfellow as early as November, according to Brown.
Brown said that the McLellan Building provides an ideal location for the town's municipal offices, in a way that "solves some of our facility needs for probably the next 20 years."
Up until this past summer, the town had also considered selling the Longfellow property outright to the College for $2 million. At a Town Council meeting in July, Councilman Benet Pols voiced his opinion that such money would benefit the Town better than new office space, according to a July 27 article in The Forecaster. He was in the minority, however, and the Council voted 6-3 to let Brown proceed with negotiations for a swap.
Brown, explaining why the sale was rejected, stated: "Two million dollars doesn't solve our problem for more than two weeks. We have a budget of about $53 million a year and so it would be just about two weeks of operating money to take the cash from Bowdoin. And it's my opinion that we get a much better deal by taking the building than taking the cash."
The College has stipulated that it will retain residency of the third floor of McLellan, which currently hosts art studios, through 2025. Also as part of the agreement, the town would fund the removal of hazardous material from the Longfellow building and make improvements to College Street, Harpswell Road and Maine Street.
The town has not decided on specific projects; however, Longley said that the College has asked the town to rebuild or repair sidewalks along College Street and improve the safety of intersections at Harpswell Road and Maine Street.
On the removal of material from Longfellow, Brown said, "The agreement we've tentatively reached is that when the College decides what it is going to do with the facility, the town will fund the abatement."
Future plans for the Longfellow site remain to be determined. Longley stated that the College had been waiting for the proposal to be passed before beginning discussions about the future of the space. "Now that it looks like we're really going to get it, the planning really starts now," Longley said.
A start date for renovation is even more uncertain. "We don't have any money right now to fix it up, so it could be several years," Longley said.
The town approved the zoning of the site for a number of uses including office space, recreational facilities, studios, a museum or library and an accessory dining facility. The College has told the Town Council that it will not construct residence halls or an alumni center at the site.