A view around the corner of the Glickman Family Library, right, at the future site of the Maine Graduate and Professional Center on the University of Southern Maine's Portland campus. In the background is the Wishcamper Center. (Portland Phoenix/Jim Neuger)
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The Portland Planning Board held a workshop Tuesday on a 40,000-square-foot performing arts center for the University of Southern Maine.

The new center on Bedford Street, if developed, would house a 200-seat performance hall, an arts lab, rehearsal space classrooms, offices and practice rooms. The space would occupy just over 16 acres of the Portland campus, and was identified as a proposal in the college’s master development plan in 2019.

According to backup materials for the board, this proposal is considered “an anchor element” of the college’s Portland expansion, which includes the already approved residence hall, student center and campus quad area.

There has been a recent trend among U.S. colleges and universities to build cultural amenities like arts facilities or athletic centers in an attempt to attract students. College enrollment in the U.S. continued to lag behind pre-pandemic levels in 2022, down about 1.23 million undergraduates and 1.11 million total enrollment compared with 2019, according to data compiled by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

A spokesperson for University of Southern Maine did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The major site plan workshop was after the Phoenix’s print deadline.

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