Editor’s note: story updated Oct. 7, 2022.
A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Oct. 1 at the University of Maine for a $28 million project to renovate Coburn and Holmes halls, two of the oldest buildings on campus, both of which have been unoccupied for more than a decade, and develop them into boutique hotels. With the construction of a new 24,800-square-foot building adjacent to Holmes Hall, the three buildings will provide 95 hotel rooms and suites, and a bistro cafe.
In addition to preserving the historic structures, the rehabilitation project will provide UMaine and the surrounding communities with high-quality campus-based hospitality services to support events, outreach and community collaboration.
The hotel project is a joint venture of Radnor Property Group LLC, a real estate development company, and Harrison Street, an investment management firm. The public private partnership (P3) agreement, which includes a ground and building lease, was approved by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees in 2021. It is the first P3 for the University of Maine System.
Archetype Architects will design the hotels; Wright-Ryan Construction is construction manager. The buildings are Certified Historic Structures and the redevelopment plan will meet the National Park Service standards for rehabilitation.
Construction began Sept. 6 with the installation of construction fencing and the start of interior renovation; the hotels are projected to open in 2024. The property will be operated by Portland-based Olympia Hotel Management.
Designated hotel parking will be located between Fogler Library and Holmes Hall. There also will be a small parking lot next to Coburn Hall.
The groundbreaking ceremony beginning at 9:45 a.m. will be held near the entrance to Holmes Hall, led by UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy.
“This is an opportunity to invest in two of our distinct historical buildings that are so much a part of the heritage of Maine’s land grant university,” says President Ferrini-Mundy. “This public private partnership for the adaptive reuse of Holmes and Coburn halls will provide high-quality hospitality as a resource for the university and the community.”
The two buildings are in UMaine’s Historic District; both were constructed in 1887–88. Coburn Hall was built to house the university library, the Department of Agriculture and Natural History, and a natural history museum. It also is considered to be the place where Phi Kappa Phi honor society got its start. Holmes Hall was built with Hatch Act funds earmarked for agricultural experiment stations at land grant universities. It also was home to the Department of Chemistry. Two wings were added to the building between 1899–1904.
UMaine’s decision to seek requests for qualification (RFQs) for the public private partnership in historic building redevelopment, followed by requests for proposals (RFPs), came a year after a 2020 assessment of the strategic importance and long-term value of continued investment in the two structures. The report by Brailsford & Dunlavey also provided options for adaptive reuse of the historic buildings that would be in keeping with UMaine’s strategic vision.
Radnor Property Group, one of four companies nationwide submitting RFPs, was awarded the P3 in 2021. Radnor’s experience with similar P3 historic redevelopment projects includes collaborations with Bucknell University and King’s College. Radnor specializes in the development of student housing, multifamily apartments, and mixed-use projects in growing and dynamic communities. It is headquartered in suburban Philadelphia with regional offices in Atlanta and Hanover, New Hampshire.