The University of Maine School of Law building on the edge of the University of Southern Maine campus in Portland. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine System

The University of Maine System board of trustees on Monday approved temporarily moving its law school to Portland’s Old Port.

The School of Law and Maine Graduate and Professional Center could move into their new home at 300 Fore St. as early as this fall, according to the board of trustees.

That move comes as the university system is deciding the fate of the law school’s distinct circular building on Deering Avenue at the edge of the University of Southern Maine campus. In addition to the law school, the building houses the University of Southern Maine Foundation, USM and graduate center staff.

The building was constructed 50 years ago and hasn’t undergone meaningful renovations in the decades since. According to one estimate, it needs as much as $20 million in renovations, which the trustees called “conservative.”

Its age and condition are considered hindrances to growing the law school, because its size places “unreasonable limits” on class sizes and its design is “functionally obsolete for the educational needs of the 21st century.”

Not only that, the board noted in its agenda that the law school facility has been named among the “the 8 ugliest university buildings in the nation.”

“This is obviously a challenge, rather than an advantage, to law student recruitment,” according to the agenda item.

The move to Fore Street won’t require any zoning changes, but the university system will seek an endorsement from the city of Portland.

The system expects to spend no more than $960,000 a year under the five-year lease to rent the Fore Street space. That lease comes with an option to renew for an additional five years.