DePre Family Capitalizes on Colby Connection, Invests in Waterville

On December 9 2015, President David A. Greene officially announced his plans for an economic developmental project that would revitalize downtown Waterville. Partnering with Collaborative Consulting, Greene promised that the project will bring 200 high quality jobs to support individuals and families under a new economic model. Furthermore, the Colby community will be able utilize the internships and professional opportunities promised by the partnership, for both students and faculty.

Local businesses are also taking advantage of the progressive campaign in order to maintain and grow their presence on Main Street. Local realtors Tom and Justin DePre have purchased two buildings on Main Street across from a property that Greene has set aside for student off-campus housing. The two buildings, 155 and 156 Main Street, are the former Atkins Printing buildings, and the DePre family plans on using the space for retail and offices. The DePres are known for renovating and leasing the famous “Colby Castles” located on Carroll Street. What started with one house eventually led to four after an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from students, and the Colby Castles paved the way to the pursuit of new projects such as this one.

Beyond the DePre family’s Colby connection, they chose to invest in Waterville because of its promising economic future. Justin DePre ’06, told the Morning Sentinel, “I don’t see a better town to invest in than Waterville. I don’t think any other town has all that going for it. I looked in Portland, I looked in Lewiston, and I just think Waterville is really set up to grow with the right coordinated efforts, and especially with Colby’s developments in the downtown.” Justin, who is originally from Long Island, NY, was kind enough to give The Echo a little more insight to their plans and their commitment to Greene’s project.

As a student, he described himself as a pretty active member of the Colby community, even working as SGA treasurer, however he felt that he spent most of his time within the Colby “bubble,” hardly venturing out into Waterville. During his senior year, many of his friends lived in off-campus housing, and he realized that their accommodations needed lots of improvement. After graduating, DePre worked in Manhattan with different law and financial firms, before returning to Waterville in 2008. DePre attributes the success of the Colby Castles to what he explained as “a high demand for off campus housing based on low inventory at the time.” With the amount of interest in living off campus, the DePres hoped that there would be plenty of students living off campus in the future.

What drew them to investing in Carroll Street was having many houses together on the same street. It was the ideal situation, and promoted a sense of community. Devki Rana ’15, who spent two years living on Carroll, agreed, and said that the togetherness was what ultimately drew her to signing a lease. “It was the best of both worlds,” she said. “You get to experience off campus housing and become a part of the larger community. But at the same time, having a line of Colby houses allows you to create your own community amongst other Colby students.”

Despite the adequate and plentiful housing on campus, Justin strongly agrees with the plans to move more students off campus and into the downtown Waterville community. “I think that Main Street definitely needs more people living there. We would like to make it a more residential area, with more businesses opening as well. I’m in favor of having students downtown; it’s nice to have a connection between the residential areas and the campus itself. When asked about off campus housing, Justin said that living on “Carroll street, campus, and now Main Street is a great way to bring students together all around Waterville.” DePre has a lot of confidence in President Greene’s agenda, as well. “Waterville is relatively small,” he pointed out. “But it could be really charming, could attract more jobs and the right kind of people. [Greene] has brought the right people to work on the project and create the right infrastructure.”

DePre also discussed what the space in their new buildings might look like and be used for. Their plans include a restoration of the two exteriors, a modern retail space on the ground floor, and office space or residential apartments above. In terms of whether or not they would work with Colby housing, DePre said, “it depends on the College’s plans on whether or not we would collaborate more with Colby housing. We’d love to welcome students into the building, but we also see young professionals or professionals living there for the most part. If there is enough interest from students though, we wouldn’t be opposed to leasing the space in a similar fashion to the way we run the Colby Castles.”

The former SGA treasurer also shared some words of wisdom with all his fellow Mules up on Mayflower Hill. “My Colby education is super valuable since it’s so broad. We learn from so many different academic areas, and being exposed to so many different topics and points of view led me to pursue all different types of careers: from Wall Street to entrepreneurship. Take advantage of the Colby network. Alums always love to help. I wouldn’t be doing what I am now without the help and advice from other Colby graduates, and that can be said for many classmates of mine in their various careers.”