The South End of Waterville, with the Hathaway Creative Center in the foreground, in July. City officials are working with Colby College leaders about possibly extending the downtown revitalization work to include the area from the Hathaway center to Elm Street. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — As the $11.2 million downtown revitalization project approaches its last few months, the city and Colby College plan to begin a new phase of envisioning how the area around downtown Waterville might look in the future, from the south end of Front and Main streets to the Hathaway Creative Center and Elm Street.

The public is to have input in the process, similar to the approach used to draft the outline of the project that is underway on Main and Front streets.

“This is not an inexpensive proposition,” City Manager Steve Daly said at a recent City Council meeting. “Colby is going to spend at least $180,000 on it.”

Daly said he is working with Colby officials to develop phase two of the revitalization process, which would include work on areas not included in current downtown construction.

“They’re (Colby) a good partner, and I think that it’s going to be a meaningful and rewarding exercise,” Daly said, “because it’s going to involve a number of public officials, a number of stakeholders from the downtown area and then spreading out into the adjoining neighborhoods and then a total public input environment, with what they call ‘charettes,’ where they bring the public in to show them what the concept is that the smaller group has come up with and take public input and reaction to it.”

A timeline for discussions has yet to be set. Brian Clark, Colby’s vice president of planning, said the process, scope of and schedule for the meetings are being organized now.


“The city raised the idea of revisiting and updating the plan to incorporate all of the new private and public developments and the many new opportunities that have been created for Waterville as a result,” Clark wrote in an email. “Colby is pleased to continue to partner with the city of Waterville to ensure Waterville is a vibrant place to live, work and recreate and we look forward to this work getting underway.”

Not long after Colby President David A. Greene came to Waterville in 2014, he headed up meetings with city and downtown business leaders, advocates for the arts and others, to explore what Waterville needed downtown to build on the city’s strengths and help improve the area.

Through those meetings, it was decided that to help downtown Waterville survive and thrive, more people must live and work downtown, vacant and dilapidated buildings must be rehabilitated or razed and the arts need be supported with a larger presence, accessible to everyone.

Colby began buying and rehabilitating buildings, such as 173 Main St., which had been vacant for years. It drew Portland Pie Co. to the ground floor, and a florist shop, The Robin’s Nest, is now on that level. Colby and other offices are on upper floors.

Colby also built the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons across the street, which houses about 200 students and staff members on upper floors and Camden National Bank and a community meeting space on the first level.

Additionally, the college built the Lockwood Hotel at the south end of Main Street, which has a restaurant and bar, Front & Main, on the street level. Colby also rehabilitated buildings across the street into an arts center, Greene Block + Studios.


Business leaders began following suit, with Bill Mitchell, owner of the GHM Insurance Agency and other properties, buying two historic buildings on Common Street and rehabilitating them into offices and other uses, including The Proper Pig restaurant.

The DePre family has also bought buildings near 173 Main St. and is working on plans for their use.

Colby has spent millions helping to revitalize downtown, including raising funds with Waterville Creates to build the Paul J. Schupf Art Center on Main Street, which is to feature art galleries, the Waterville Opera House office, a cafe overlooking Castonguay Square and three cinemas on the upper floor that will replace Railroad Square Cinema.

As part of a city, Colby and Maine Department of Transportation project, the one-way traffic pattern downtown is being changed to two-way traffic on Main and Front streets to slow traffic and make downtown more convenient and safer for pedestrians, diners and shoppers.

The $11.2 million project includes a $7.3 million BUILD grant the city received from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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