It was another very busy week here in Maine. We have had hot weather very much like the rest of the Northeast, interrupted Wednesday evening by wildly powerful storms. Being on the water and watching and experiencing these storms was awesome.
This week we brought Phil Enquist back to campus. Phil, who is a partner with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Chicago, first visited Bowdoin nine years ago when he came here to help us think about master planning. After nearly a decade, we wanted Phil to help us think about the future and near-term issues related to the Brunswick Naval Air Station and development around campus. I have written often recently about how—given our financial situation—there aren’t plans to continue to develop the campus at the pace we have seen in recent years. However, it is important for us to continue to think carefully about campus planning.
The Brunswick Naval Air Station will be closed within the next 12 months, and conveyances of land to new occupants will begin. The State and the local planning agencies have made it a priority to keep both runways open for the future and to attract uses related to aviation. It has been announced that a private airport will be operated at the site for private planes. A young Bowdoin alumnus (Peter Eichleay ’04), who is already an experienced operator, will run this venture. And today it was announced that a company that manufactures airplanes with composites will be setting up shop at the base and will employ many people, possibly as many as 300 in the future.
Southern Maine Community College has also announced plans to open a campus at the base and is acquiring a number of the empty buildings there for dormitories and classroom space. They expect also to collaborate with the University of Maine on engineering education. This is very exciting for the community because the school anticipates at least 2,000 students and this will also bring many jobs to the area. There may also be opportunities for Bowdoin to collaborate with our new neighbors. I have met James Ortiz, the president of SMCC, and we have existing relationships with SMCC in our technology operations at the College.
Bowdoin continues to work with the local, regional, state, and federal authorities regarding the anticipated conveyance to Bowdoin of 175 developable acres on the base. This land includes a parcel of about six acres that fronts on Bath Road, with the remainder of the land located along the west side of the base generally starting at a spot about parallel to the entrance to Farley Field House and moving south towards Middle Bay Road and the base golf course (we do not anticipate that Bowdoin will acquire the golf course).
We continue in the visioning stage for possible uses of this property by Bowdoin as we work to become more familiar with the land to be conveyed to us and its possibilities. We are evaluating very short-term needs and development we would do out there, including potentially moving our buildings and grounds operations from Rhodes Hall out to the land that fronts on Bath Road. The base land is also especially suited for our academic program and there are many opportunities to think about space for study of the environment. This property is important to us and to our future and we are thinking about its potential.
A number of us did a van tour of the base and the associated land this week. My most vivid impression centered on the scope of the base facilities and on how much has been built there by the Navy during the past decade—airplane hangers, hotels, classroom space, office space, housing, and on and on. I am confident—I guess—that the base closing process was done thoughtfully by the Navy and the federal government, but I can’t help but wonder how much money was spent out there that won’t ever be recouped and how many jobs have been lost in our community. My other important impression was that the property we are scheduled to acquire will be challenging land to develop given the wetlands, easements reserved by the FAA and other governmental entities, environmentally protected areas, and the topography. The land will be a challenge for years to come as we think about its future utility to the College.
Nonetheless, the opportunity for the College is tremendous, and we and future leaders of the College will have the responsibility and the challenge of planning and implementing future development out there in a way that benefits Bowdoin and enhances the town of Brunswick.
(Editor’s note: For detail on the BNAS Reuse Master Plan Map shown above, visit this site.)
Over the summer, I will continue to offer my thoughts on subjects interesting to me or of importance to the College, but I want to hear your ideas too. If there is a subject you’d like me to address, send me an e-mail at email@example.com