Northeastern University’s Roux Institute’s plans to build a state-of-the-art waterfront campus in Portland, Maine, received overwhelming support from members of the public who spoke during a planning committee meeting on Tuesday.
“I think the future is very bright,” said Orlando Delogu, a Portland resident, who told board members he’s followed the rise of the Roux Institute over the past two and a half years and looks forward to seeing what more Northeasts can do achieve when moving from rented premises to a permanent home.
“This is a unique opportunity for the state of Maine, for the city of Portland,” said Delogu.
Renderings of the new Roux Institute campus were presented during the online public meeting. The members of the planning committee raised related questions about the size and scope of the project, which have been discussed for several months.
The integrated campus plan features a variety of buildings that will be developed in phases as the institute grows. The buildings include academic learning and research spaces, incubators for new businesses and startups, and facilities for collaborating with Roux Institute partners.
In response to demand, the plan also includes housing to support Roux Institute students, faculty and staff.
The property will be restored to its natural state. Roux executives and designers created a detailed vision of a large area served by public walkways and bike paths that will revitalize a former factory space while furthering the institute’s mission to strengthen Maine’s technology industry.
The plans, which were updated following prior public feedback, met with no objection from Portland residents, as neighbors said they look forward to redeveloping the Casco Bay waterfront area.
The institute is currently located two miles away on a 44,000 square foot site operated by WEX, a founding partner of the Roux Institute. The Institute for Digital Engineering and Life Sciences (IDEALS), a not-for-profit organization formed to create a permanent location for the Roux, announced last year that it had acquired the waterfront property, the site of the former B&M Baked Beans factory, bought in East Deering.
Based on what he’s already seen, Delogu said he has no doubt that the Roux will continue to be a commons, just on a much larger scale.
“The Roux Institute has given us a model, a microcosm of what the future holds in a larger space,” Delogu said. He listed the achievements of the institute since its inception in January 2020: “The programs implemented and the number of students involved; the number of jobs created, the number of spin-offs and smaller start-ups, the diversity of the staff, the student body.”
The institute has served more than 1,200 learners to date while growing to partnerships with more than 100 organizations including businesses, academic and community organizations.
The proposed campus is based on four principles, said architect Timothy Mansfield of architecture firm CambridgeSeven:
- Connection to the Waterfront, Portland and the world. The plans include three public acres of waterfront parkland and a restoration of the historic B&M Baked Beans factory, which ceased production last year. Lots on the edge of campus have been set aside for a possible freeway exit if growth of the institute results in traffic exceeding expectations.
- places to collect. The center of the campus will be a pedestrian zone with a cycle path running around it. Features include a public cafe, seating along the waterfront, and a dock. The two tallest buildings, relocated to the center of the campus, will serve as a hotel and campus accommodation (the latter can be rented out to the general public depending on student demand).
- Sustainable and resilient campus. The institute is developing a sustainable charter that includes seawater heat exchange, green roofs and geothermal energy.
- Integrated landscape. The campus will use stone, granite, brick, copper and other materials that have traditionally defined the city. “We’re clearing a wasteland of asphalt and industrial buildings,” Mansfield said. “This is an opportunity to create a landscape that is welcoming to all, that supports a variety of things to do and that feels like a part of Portland.”
More than $200 million has been invested in the Roux Institute, launched by the university with a $100 million investment from technology entrepreneur and Maine native David Roux and his wife Barbara. They partnered with Northeastern to realize their vision of a Portland-based center to educate generations of digital and life sciences talent and develop new ideas through research.
In October 2020, the institute received a $100 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation, an investment that provides financial support for graduate students, funding for postdoctoral research, and support for collaborations with Maine employers.
“The people who work at the institute — the learners, the partners, the researchers, and the entrepreneurs — need an integrated campus that can meet their needs for constant collaboration and convenience,” Chris Mallett, the institute’s chief administrative officer, told the Planning Committee. “This is how we believe change and innovation happen: by connecting people.
“We’re excited about the plan because we believe it gives us the best prospects of doing just that — and also attracting experts from around the world to join us and come together at the Roux Institute campus and engage in the.” to participate in the process.”
Mallett emphasized Northeastern’s long-term commitment to the institute. Northeastern’s global university system includes 13 campus locations in the US, Canada and the UK.
“Just think what this opportunity can mean for the people of Portland, the people of Maine, by creating the opportunity for young people to stay at home and work in the 21st century economy,” Chuck said Hewett, executive director of IDEALS. “We see a dynamic center of learning and an innovation hub that can lead the state into a very exciting future.”
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