The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Harold Alfond Hall (Bangor)

Each year, the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) recognizes some of the state’s most “noteworthy and significant” real estate projects, completed in the previous year. The exemplary projects from across the state, completed in 2021, not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible real estate development, but also exemplify best practices in the industry, contributing to Maine’s economic growth by significant investment of resources and job creation statewide.

This year, MEREDA honored projects from Portland to Biddeford to Bangor, with each receiving special recognition at MEREDA’s 2022 Spring Conference on May 24th.

In a multi-part series exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.

MEREDA’s 2021 Top 7 recipients include:

Harold Alfond Hall, Husson University (Bangor)Harnois & Emery Apartments, Westbrook Housing, Westbrook Development Corporation, and Anew Development (Westbrook)
Thornton Heights Commons, South Portland Housing Development Corporation (South Portland)
Riverdam Mill Complex, Port Property (Biddeford)
40 Free Street, JB Brown & Sons & Ryan Senatore Architecture, (Portland)
Deering Place, Zachau Construction & Avesta Housing, (Portland)
Children’s Museum + Theatre Maine, Zachau Construction (Portland)

Please join us this week in celebrating Harold Alfond Hall.

MEREDA:  Describe the building and project.

Husson University:  Husson University’s Harold Alfond Hall is a $17.2 million, 42,000 square foot state-of-the-art, multi-purpose building. It serves an array of students, faculty, and external organizations. The building is a beautiful facility that’s designed to accommodate growth. It contains leading-edge technologies and advancements designed to foster student engagement and experiential learning. The facility also serves as a center for collaborative interactions with Maine’s business community. With a light and airy atmosphere that ties into its native surroundings, the building provides copious amounts of natural light. This has made Harold Alfond Hall an uplifting space that’s conducive to learning. The project was made possible through donations from generous donors who believe in and support the University’s mission.

Providing traditional classes and regional workforce development, this educational facility serves both students and the community. Classrooms are fully equipped to provide agile workshops where Maine entrepreneurs, students, faculty, and industry experts can create and collaborate. The building includes state-of-the-art audio visual systems, advanced acoustic control, an extended reality center, a financial center, flexible workspaces providing virtually unlimited opportunities for collaborative and “hands-on” experiential learning, and a forensic science lab used for the analysis of crime scene evidence.

MEREDA:  What was the impetus for this project? 

Husson University:  Tracing its origins back to the Shaw Business College and School of Penmanship in 1898, Husson’s College of Business has grown to be the largest school of its kind in Maine. More students choose to get a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Husson University than any other college or University in the state. The University began monitoring education growth trends more than ten years the building was commissioned. Projections showed a clear need for this facility in order to accommodate the University’s growing demand for physical space. The building is also helping Husson to fulfill its mission and implement advancements in pedagogy, technology and innovation.

Now completed, this facility represents a major milestone in the progression of professional education at Husson University. In addition to student engagement and experiential learning, Harold Alfond Hall facilitates collaborative interactions with the faculty, students and Maine’s business community. Equipped with advanced technology, the building strengthens the University’s ability to work with students and other constituents in remote locations. It also enhances the University’s ability to provide the skilled and talented workforce Maine needs to compete in today’s global economy. Harold Alfond Hall represents years of meticulous planning, extensive private fundraising, and careful execution.

MEREDA:  That sounds like quite a process.  How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?

Husson University:  Significant effort went into the planning stages of this project. After its original concepts were outlined, Husson University spent years considering revisions and new ideas. Initial preliminary design sketches date back to 2012. Over the next several years, concepts were developed and evaluated collaboratively by a variety of stakeholders in an effort to design a futuristic building that could serve our academic mission well into the future. Efforts accelerated in 2017 when the Harold Alfond Foundation announced it would provide a one dollar match for every two dollars donated to Husson for this project, up to a total of $4 million. That same year, the University signed a contract that carried the project into the design development and detailed design phases. Construction began in the spring of 2020.

MEREDA:  Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.

Husson University:  There were many challenges that arose during the design and construction of this building. At the onset, we engaged in a highly collaborative design process including: students, faculty, staff, architects, construction and design teams, our board of trustees, and various stakeholders. This input resulted in numerous design changes. Husson wanted to ensure that all voices were heard and all needs were captured within the design and function of this building.

Construction commenced shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The impact of COVID-19 on the project was extensive. It resulted in the issuance and enforcement of personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements and protocols to safeguard against spread of the coronavirus on the jobsite. Infections and work stoppages constantly rerouted our critical path forcing workarounds.

We encountered numerous labor and material shortages. Cost escalations forced us to continually change our plans to keep the project on track. We also incurred in-process design changes to improve our defenses against COVID-19 and future pandemics with enhancements such as touchless entries and fixtures as well as a hospital-grade air filtration system. In addition, the facility is designed to keep pace with the evolution of technology utilized by our advanced iEX center. Despite those challenges, the team brought the building in on schedule and under budget.

MEREDA:  Something unexpected you learned along the way was….

Husson University: This project has taught us the benefits and power of a collaborative design effort. As part of Husson’s meticulous, long-term planning process, the University was able to glean tremendous insights from students, faculty, staff, architects, construction managers, design teams, and our board of trustees. This input was integrated into the building’s design. The result was a world class educational facility. It’s exciting to see the completed facility in action as it provides an engaging and unique learning environment for our students. The extensive and collaborative design process and construction reflect the ideas everyone brought to the table.

MEREDA:  Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable? 

Husson University:  The building’s expansive glass curtain wall and prominent location immediately draws one in upon entering campus. High-tech classrooms, a financial center, a crime scene lab, a forensics lab, computer lab, a world-class extended reality center, interactive work rooms, and numerous study spaces are all in support of what we consider to be the most notable aspect of this building – its ability to positively impact the role Husson plays in transforming students’ lives.

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