Pending final approval from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the U.S. Navy, Bowdoin may nearly double the size of its campus by 2012?for free.

The Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA) and the State and Local Screening Committee endorsed the College's move to acquire 182 acres of the 3,200-acre Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS), which is set to close in 2011. They recommended that Bowdoin be given the land at no cost as a "public benefit conveyance."

College officials said they expected the DOE to approve the conveyance earlier this week, but have now been told the department will not make a decision before September 17.

In its July presentation to the BLRA, the College said based on historical trends, the student body should increase by 600 over the next 40 years, and that this would stimulate both direct and indirect job growth in the community. An analyst contracted by the College predicted that these new jobs would pay between $20 and $30 million in new wages over the next 20 years.

However, College officials stress that while they are almost certain the College will grow in the future, the current administration has no immediate plans to increase enrollment.

"We still don't have the endowment per student to allow us to grow significantly," said President Barry Mills. "Do I think the College will grow in my tenure? It might. It just depends on how long my tenure is."

Katy Longley, Bowdoin's treasurer and vice president for finance, said the College sought the BNAS land to make sure future administrations have the capacity to expand the College if they decide it is necessary.

"It would appear that by sometime between 2030 and 2050, the College would need more room," she said.

The College has conceptualized new dormitories, administrative buildings, parking areas, and athletic fields on the new land. Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, and BLRA Executive Director Steve Levesque said they are under the impression that these facilities will be ready for use within three years of the property conveyance.

In that scenario, the College would have a functional satellite campus on the land by 2014 or 2015, by which time enrollment is projected to have grown by only 100 students.

Bowdoin's application does suggest this. But Longley said that while federal regulations do require Bowdoin to complete any planned construction within three years of the conveyance, it is likely that the College will end up submitting a plan that only commits to developing field research labs and playing fields within that timeframe, with the understanding that it will build other structures?such as dormitories and academic buildings?in the future. Furthermore, Mills said the College's land use plan is flexible and may be amended until the day of conveyance as long as it retains the "intensity of educational use."

"This [project] is vitally important to the College's future, and it's vitally important to the town's future," Mills said. "It's incumbent upon us to work with our community and to do this right."

Gerzofsky said he trusts the College to follow through on its promise of spin-off economic benefits, though he emphasized the importance of prompt development.

"Economic development is what the main use of the base is going to be," he said. If the College does not begin generating jobs soon after the conveyance, he said, it "wouldn't have made sense" for the BLRA to endorse Bowdoin's request.

Because Bowdoin's campus is landlocked by residential neighborhoods, Longley said, increasing the size of the campus in recent years has been a gradual and challenging endeavor.

But despite being hemmed in, Bowdoin has been steadily expanding its land holdings for some time. Since 2000, the College has spent over $2.5 million to purchase ten new lots on the south side of campus between College Street and Farley Field House.

Though the BNAS land itself may not cost Bowdoin any money, building it into usable college facilities certainly will. It has estimated that developing the two smaller parcels?which comprise one-twenty-sixth of the total request?will cost more than all of these recent purchases combined.

In all, the College has predicted it will end up investing over $100 million in the developing the base land. In addition, Mills said the College is "ready, willing, and able" to purchase the property if the DOE or the Navy denies its public conveyance request.

The BNAS land acquisition would not only be much larger and more expensive than any of Bowdoin's previous purchases, it would also be far more remote. The specific location of most of the land will depend on an environmental survey that has yet to be conducted, but it could be as far as 2.5 miles south of the main campus.

Longley said if Bowdoin gets the land, it would eventually need to implement some sort of transportation system to ferry students between there and the current campus.

However, Longley and Mills both cautioned that specific plans regarding the development of the 182 total acres and its associated costs are purely conceptual at this point.