Project information

  • Renovation and addition 30,620 sf

  • Construction cost $3.5M

  • Completed 2016


2016 Historic Preservation Award, Greater Portland Landmarks

2016 Statewide Historic Preservation Award, Maine Preservation

2016 Notable Projects, MEREDA

South Portland, ME


The campus was too large for MCJA’s needs, so the renovation plan concentrated on stabilizing all the buildings, incorporating current life-safety requirements and mechanical systems, and renovating only the sections the Academy required.

The State of Maine bought the property without a clear plan to use it, and it stood empty for almost ten years before it was chosen as the site for the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. By the time renovations began, the ivy and Virginia creeper were out of control.

Site improvements include covered parking for the residents and an open public walkway for use by residents and the neighborhood.

Architect William Ferris Price of Philadelphia designed the complex in stages for the Oak Grove School. Arched windows and doors, crenellated towers, and stone lintels are typical of his English Tudor style.

PDT was able to fit the MCJA media center into the school’s old elegant library with new finishes. The antique light fixtures were reused.

The brick-and-limestone Oak Grove complex, a former boarding school, was built in sections between 1928 and 1962. The English Tudor structure overlooks the Kennebec River, with a magnificent view toward the western mountains. Bought by the state in 1989, it sat empty for a decade until the Maine Criminal Justice Academy selected the property for its new home.

Many of MCJA’s functions fitted into Oak Grove’s spaces with relatively little reorganization. The lecture hall was inserted into the old chapel, making use of the existing floor-to-ceiling windows and laminated wood ceiling trusses. The program included a tactical center, lecture hall, classrooms, dining commons, barracks for 130 students, and the parade ground looking over the Kennebec River.

A new 19,000-sf addition houses the gymnasium/tactical center, with a running track on the second level. The tactical center is equipped with garage doors, streetscape murals, and street lighting for training simulations.

The exterior remains as faithful as possible to the original, with the ivy removed, replacement of windows and roofs, and repointing. Two unobtrusive stair towers provide ADA access and fire egress.

Besides new mechanical, sprinkler, and security systems, and a water heater sufficient to provide showers for the entire class at the same time, data drops were wired into every office and dormitory room. Digital projectors were provided in conference and teaching spaces, and a firearms training simulator installed.

Photo credit: © Sandy Agrafiotis

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