The former Society of the Sisters of Charity convent, seen Tuesday, at 96 Campus Ave. in Lewiston is being renovated into Bates College student housing. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — A former convent built almost half a century ago to house the Society of the Sisters of Charity will soon become a new residence hall for Bates College.

The college plans to turn the 96 Campus Ave. building into a dorm for students to use for the fall semester, according to Geoffrey Swift, the vice president for finance and administration and treasurer at the college.

It’s part of an ambitious plan, still in the works, to ensure that Bates does not lag behind its peers.

“Going forward, our Campus Facilities Master Plan continues to identify the strategic investments needed for Bates to remain a leading liberal arts college that attracts excellent students, faculty and staff,” Swift said.

“Specifically, we need to invest in athletic and residential facilities, since these have not kept pace with the renovations on the academic side.”

In a note to Bates students and staff, Swift said the renovation is already underway on the three-story building the college purchased from St. Mary’s Health System in 2021 for $1.95 million. Reworking the building is slated to cost an additional $3.64 million.

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Bates College purchased the former Society of the Sisters of Charity convent on Campus Avenue in Lewiston from St. Mary’s Health System in 2021. The college is converting it into students housing. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

It served as a temporary home for Bates’ student affairs staff while Chase Hall underwent reconstruction, but it will have a new use later this year.

Swift said that by creating the new dorm, Bates “will create accessible living options for students, support the fluctuations we regularly experience in class size and allow us to take existing residences out of service for needed repairs in future years.”

When the Society of the Sisters of Charity moved to the location in 1977, it served as a home for many nuns who worked mostly at the Marcotte Nursing Home and at St. Mary’s General Hospital, continuing a mission of service it began in 1878 in Lewiston.

The brick and glass structure originally contained 32 bedrooms, office space, a chapel with an organ, a lobby, a kitchen, a dining room and other amenities.

It’s not clear when the nuns moved out. St. Mary’s used the building for some of its services in the years before it sold the 3-acre property to Bates. It also housed the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston’s Daisy Garden Childcare Center until 2021.

In addition to the new dorm, Swift said the college also has another plan in the works: converting its Russell Street athletic field from grass to artificial turf.

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“This will improve the Bates student experience in myriad ways, including increased usage of Russell Field; better durability, playability and consistency for varsity soccer practice and game play; and more opportunities for other varsity programs, club and intramural teams,” he said.

Swift said the field project is expected to be done by August.

He also said the two projects are only the beginning, calling them “important steps toward the ambitious goals of improving the athletic, recreation and residential facilities on campus.”

More dorm space is clearly on the agenda.

“Bates guarantees housing for all students for all four years of their Bates experience,” Swift said, which means the college needs to have about 1,750 beds available for students.

The construction of Chu and Kalperis halls within the past decade “helped alleviate congestion,” he said, and allowed the college to improve some of its buildings.

“Moving forward, we look to improve additional student spaces across campus,” Swift said.

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