Amidst the seemingly constant flow of positive rhetoric between City Hall and the College regarding Waterville’s revitalization, tensions have begun to rise to the surface. Sources on both sides of the town-gown relationship who chose to remain anonymous cited the leasing of parking spaces to the College for the boutique hotel as one of the main sources of conflict.
The multipurpose space on 150 Main Street that will house the student dorm and retail and community spaces has already committed a large number of parking spots to Colby. The College has asked the city for an additional 42 parking spaces at the other end of Main Street where the boutique hotel will be built. Currently, the Front Street lot holds 60 spots.
According to Colby’s Vice President of Planning Brian Clark, Waterville City Councilors initially offered the 42 spots at a cost of $1 per year for the first 99 years, an arrangement that was also used for leases for the Hathaway Creative Center. Additionally, the College would take on the $400 per spot per year cost to maintain the entire lot. This would have moved $24,000 of annual expenses from the city to the College.
Clark said in an interview with the Echo that he believes it was not made entirely clear to the public that the $1 per year offer was not made on behalf of the College, but rather that this was the lease proposed by the city. This confusion caused many downtown business owners and patrons to push back at city councilors, who they believed were rejecting the interests of the community.
As a result, the first of two City Council votes on the matter was postponed by one week. In an email correspondence with the Echo, City Manager Mike Roy ’74 said that the delay was necessary “in order to work out the terms for how many spaces would be leased and for how much money.”
In an interview with the Morning Sentinel last week, President David A. Greene gave an ultimatum to the City Council, alluding to the impact of their upcoming vote. Greene said that without the necessary parking spaces, the hotel can not be built; and without the hotel, the College will not proceed on constructing a $25 million multipurpose student residence and retail complex at the Concourse.
Director of Commercial Real Estate Paul Ureneck deferred comments on the issue to Brian Clark.
Clark said the College must have the 42 parking spaces due to city ordinance mandating hotels have parking available for each room. The hotel plans to have 42 rooms. The College will lease 30 spots dedicated for hotel use and 12 spots dedicated for hotel use in the evenings and weekends.
Following Greene’s ultimatum to the city, Clark said a three-hour meeting took place on March 30 between city and College officials to further negotiate the terms of the deal, in which “we got to understand where the city was coming from and the pressures that the Councilors felt from their constituents,” Clark said. Roy wrote to the Echo that “people are concerned about the loss of additional public parking spaces, but most agree that the benefits of all this new growth far outweighs the inconvenience caused by parking.”
Ultimately the two sides came to a compromise in which the College agreed to a $10,080 annual lease cost in addition to the $24,000 annual maintenance costs of the spaces. This amounts to an unprecedented cost for parking downtown, according to Clark.
The $10,080 is the annual cost of the $28 per spot per month that the College will pay. While the deal is a 40 year lease, the price will jump to $50 per spot after 20 years, according to Clark.
The hotel will create 45 new permanent jobs downtown, with an added $1.7 million in new payroll.