Boutique hotel manager boasts strong experiences with college towns

A newly constructed 40-50 room boutique hotel and upscale-casual farm-to-table restaurant will bookend Main Street in downtown Waterville by the spring of 2019. John Schultzel, Vice President of Hotel Management for the Olympia Companies, confirmed in a phone interview with the Echo that the boutique hotel is set to begin construction following the finalization of a design. Brian Clark, Vice President of Planning for Colby, wrote in an email to the Echo  that the College is in final discussions with an architect and is hoping to announce a design by the summer.

Beginning in the fall of 2016, the face of Main Street started changing following the demolition of a building located at the foot of Main Street. Colby purchased the property, a Waterville landmark located at 9 Main Street, in July of 2015 for $200,000 through a specially formed limited liability corporation, Elm City 9 LLC. Each of Colby’s buildings and properties on Main Street were purchased by similar LLCs registered to the offices of Drummond Woodsum in Portland.

Known in Waterville as the Levine’s Building, 9 Main Street formerly housed the Levine’s Store, which was a staple in downtown Waterville from 1904 until its closing in 1996. The department store sold clothing for men and boys and was known by Colby students for providing suits for interviews at little to no cost. Since Levine’s closure, the building has had no anchor tenant and was most recently owned by a Connecticut businessman who had plans to renovate the building.

The independent boutique hotel in downtown Waterville is being developed by the Olympia Companies, a Portland based real estate development firm. Olympia was founded in Maine in 1969, and is a family owned real estate and development management company, Schultzel stated. It started building and managing hotels with a “renewed zest” starting in 2001, Schultzel said.

According to Schultzel, the Olympia Companies participated in and won an RFP process that was managed by the Boston based Pinnacle Advisory Group, a hospitality consulting firm hired by Colby in January. Olympia is a well-known and highly regarded hotel management company that manages college-owned hotels for Swarthmore College, Williams College, Oberlin College, and Rollins College. Olympia has a breadth of experience operating 18 hotels across the country. However, college hotel projects, like Colby’s, are one of its focus areas. “We have a strong pedigree with college hospitality,” Schultzel said. The company is also currently managing a similar boutique hotel project for Vassar College.

Schultzel and Sara Masterson, Vice President of Hotel Management for Olympia will oversee the hotel’s development. Schultzel oversees the hotel portfolio and works on new projects for Olympia. Masterson is responsible for Olympia’s independent hotel group and will be responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the hotel according to Schultzel.

Both Colby and Olympia have indicated their interest in developing an independent hotel on Main Street. “The independent boutique hotel is the right fit for this project. The franchise model doesn’t really work for small hotels nor does it work when a significant amount of hotel demand is affiliated with the College,” Schultzel said.

One unique feature of the hotel is the concurrent development of a upscale casual restaurant in the hotel. Schultzel stated that Olympia and the College believed that there was a gap in the market and a necessity for an upscale establishment serving local farm-to-table food. He reiterated that although catering to hotel residents, “the restaurant will also focus on creating a balance between accessibility and the four diamond aspiration of the hotel.” The restaurant will be relatively small and have seating for 45 to 50 in the dining room and spaces for another 20 to 25 in a bar area. The hotel and restaurant will also be accompanied by a meeting facility that will cater to both social and corporate gatherings up to 100 people. “Our goal is to create a living room for campus and community…this is as much a Waterville amenity as much as it is a Colby amenity,” stated Schultzel.