Double demolition in sight for old dorms

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The Dickey-Wood dorms on the University of Southern Maine Gorham campus are on the demoliton block.

The Dickey-Wood dorms on the University of Southern Maine Gorham campus are on the demoliton block.

GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine plans to demolish the twin  round dormitories on its Gorham campus because it would be too costly to fix them.

The eight-story Dickey-Wood dorms, were built in 1970. No date has been set for their demolition.

“We have had engineers and developers look into the possibility and costs of renovating Dickey Woods, and their analysis is renovation is not economically practical,” USM President Glenn Cummings said in an email response to the American Journal.

The two dorms have been vacant since the end of the spring semester three years ago when only 40 students lived there. The towers had a capacity of housing 368 students, according to an American Journal story in May 2014.

George N. Campbell Jr., president and CEO of the non-profit, fundraising USM Foundation, said Tuesday that a rehab of the  two shuttered  buildings would cost about $10 million and even then they would still be functionally obsolete.

“We just didn’t see it as economically feasible,” Campbell said, concurring with Cummings.

Campbell said the two dorms are a solid set of buildings, but out of date. Problems he cited include the height of ceilings, lack of air conditioning, and that the dorms contain asbestos.

Campbell said the university is budgeting $3.25 million for demolition of the two dorms, but the project would go out to bid. The demolition is included in a new master plan for its three campuses – Gorham, Lewiston-Auburn and Portland.

Shawn Moody of Gorham, a University of Maine System trustee, could not be reached for comment by the American Journal deadline Wednesday.

University spokesman Robert Stein said Tuesday a demolition date for the twin dorms is uncertain, but he doubted they would be razed this year.

The university does not anticipate building additional dorms on its Gorham campus. Campbell said the Gorham campus has 1,100 residential units now and “I don’t see new dorms out there.”

Campbell said the university is looking at new dorms for upperclassmen and graduate students for its Portland campus. Students are facing  escalating costs of off-campus apartments in the city, he said.

The Dickey-Wood halls are connected on the ground level. The pair cost more than $2.2 million to construct 47 years ago.

They were named and dedicated for two women at Gorham State College, a university forerunner. Edna Dickey was a  history professor and women’s dean and Esther Wood was social science professor. Both women were also writers and Dickey co-authored a town history, “Fifty Years of Gorham 1936-1986.”

The university has explored alternative uses for the dorms, including converting them into elderly housing. Local developers looked into it, Campbell said, but the best use determined for the buildings would be for cold storage.

“The plan is to have these buildings demolished,” Campbell said.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com