Bowdoin will seek to triple the size of its campus by acquiring a 450-acre parcel of land from the Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS), the College announced late Thursday. The 3,300-acre military base is scheduled to close by 2011.
Though no specific development plans were included in the announcement, President Barry Mills indicated that the College would consider using the land for recreational, administrative, and academic purposes.
"Having 3,300 acres available in Brunswick is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Katy Longley told the Orient in an interview late Thursday. "And we want to acquire property for future generations of the College."
Longley stressed that the College's plans were only in their preliminary stages, and that the reason for the announcement "is to be clear to Brunswick residents what we're interested in."
At the same time, state Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, raised concerns that Bowdoin's plans would compete with his proposal for a new, 1,000-acre town commons to be carved from the base.
"The College has never talked to me about a damn thing, and I'm the one that puts the order through the Legislature. They're certainly welcome to ask for anything, but there are certainly going to be competing interests on that property," he said in a phone interview Thursday night. "We're looking at what property is going to make the new town commons and [the area Bowdoin has indicated] is certainly some property that every conservation interest in town would want to conserve."
Before Bowdoin can actually acquire the parcel, the College must outline an elaborate plan for the land's use, including proof that the land is needed, an environmental analysis, and a description of any buildings to be constructed, as well as the necessary financial means to implement construction. This plan would be binding for the first 30 years of the land's ownership.
After a plan is drafted, it is then submitted to the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) for consideration.
"They will submit an application to the LRA, which is also going to be vetted through the community planning process," said Steve Levesque, executive director of the LRA, on Thursday night.
Then, "if it's okay with the navy, then they would submit their proposal to the Department of Education."
At this point, however, it is not even entirely clear which parcels of land will be available, since federal agencies will be the first to make claims on the BNAS property.
Within the next few months, these claims will be made public, at which point any other interested parties will have 90 days to come up with their detailed proposals.
Longley said that she hopes the College can work with the town to come up with a satisfactory plan.
"I know that Rep. Gerzofsky is working diligently to see if the town can acquire property on the base to replace the former town commons," she said in a follow-up email message.
"I am not certain where the property boundaries [of the new town commons] would be. It's early in the process and we will want to work closely with Rep. Gerzofsky, the town, and other interested parties as we develop our plan."
Longley added that Bowdoin would be sure to recognize any natural resources limitations on the property, which contains fragile pitch pine and grassland ecosystems.
According to Longley, the next step for the College is coming up with its detailed development strategy.
She said that the strategy would be discussed with the trustees, and she also encouraged any interested students to contact her.
"We've identified the area," she said. "Now we need to roll up our sleeves and put a plan together."