Colby hires Paul Ureneck as director of commercial real estate

Colby has hired Paul Ureneck as the Director of Commercial Real Estate. In this new position, Ureneck will be responsible for leading the development of Colby’s acquired properties and overseeing collaboration with the city, local businesses, arts and cultural organizations, and local residents. Coming off a partner position and a senior vice president at CBRE and Boulos Asset Management in Portland, Ureneck is an expert in consensus building and creative solution design. The College has officially purchased five buildings in the downtown area, with plans for a student and faculty residential space, a boutique hotel, and several commercial spaces. Alumni and local businessmen have also joined in, purchasing buildings in the downtown.

Brian Clark, Assistant to the President and the Director of Planning, said of Ureneck, “Before coming to Colby he most recently worked on the development of Thompson Point in Portland, which includes a large scale outdoor concert venue, a brewery, a museum, and a hotel, to help make Portland even more of a destination. We knew through these experiences, and others, that he is both an exceptional developer and is someone who will be incredibly thoughtful about curating a set of experiences on Main Street  that will underpin Waterville’s revitalization.” Ureneck is also credited with the restoration of Portland’s Congress Street. Ureneck says, “Congress St. was depressed with vacant storefronts and a business community that was moving to the suburbs…In under 15 years, Portland has been transformed into the vibrant city it is today.” It is now a pillar of the Portland community, and attracts people from all over the country and the world to Maine. Ureneck has also worked on the Allagash Brewery, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, and the restoration and development of the Winslow Homer Studio.

Ureneck is not new to Colby; after spending forty years in commercial real estate development, he has consulted for Colby on their real estate purchases in the past. He chose to come to Colby for the chance to work on a college campus and be exposed to new ideas. He said, “Personal change is good, it keeps you on your toes.”

He envisions a pedestrian-friendly downtown with diverse businesses, with a strong retail presence at street level, a dynamic arts presence, and several nonprofits with which Colby can collaborate. Interactions between Colby and Waterville is nothing new, and the college and locals have enjoyed a strong relationship. Colby was established in Waterville, and was once called Waterville College. When the school moved up to Mayflower Hill, the money for the 600+ acres was raised in a joint effort between Waterville citizens and the College.

Ureneck has a deep love and connection for Maine. His family immigrated to Maine from Greece in the early 1900s, where they worked in the Saco Mills. During World War II, his family moved to New Jersey and opened a restaurant before moving back to Maine in the 1970s. Ureneck has raised five children Maine, and now has five grandchildren. He told The Echo, “Maine is a great state, which is why we all live here. My vision is one that values and protects our natural resources, continues on a progressive path of inclusion for all, maintains a solid and innovative work ethic, and never compromises on the quality of life we all treasure. I see Waterville as the creative hub of central Maine. For a community of 16,000 people, Waterville has the assets of a city four times its size. I see nothing but upside and potential.”

One of the planned developments that has generated a great deal of buzz is the boutique hotel. Some students have wondered if it will be similar to Cornell’s Statler Hotel, even though Colby does not have a hospitality program. Ureneck says, “Our model will be geared towards our own identity and to contributing to the overall revitalization efforts.”

Although many colleges, including other NESCACs, have invested into their surrounding communities, Colby’s close partnership with Waterville is the first of its kind. Colby has created an alliance of the city, local business owners, arts and community organization, private investors, the state of Maine, and philanthropic organizations for the renaissance of Waterville. Colby’s investments are intended to spark other investments into Waterville, which has already occurred with alumni and local businessmen purchasing downtown property, and there is a strong focus on civic engagement and community partnerships.

Students are at the core of the development of Colby’s relationship with Waterville. Ureneck points to Adam Howard’s Social Class and Schooling course, which has examined downtown development, including a culminating presentation at the recent Social Class Awareness week. This work will help inform the design of the student apartment complex that is planned for the Waterville Concourse. Student research is also taken into account, including the work of one student seeking to understand the experiences of other communities that have gone through similar significant change. Student involvement and engagement will increase as the plans continue and grow. Ellie Donohue ’16 says “It’s great to hear that the student perspective will be included in all areas of the Colby-Waterville partnership for downtown’s renaissance.”

When asked about the “town and gown” relationship and what the Waterville community thinks about Colby students, Ureneck said “I’m still learning about it. I think some of the community’s perceptions are based on incorrect assumptions on who Colby students are. Attitudes will not be changed overnight, but I definitely perceive the relationship to be heading on a true and positive course.” He points to Colby students involvement in the community, such as Colby Cares About Kids and the Colby Volunteer Center, and how important it is that Waterville locals can interact with Colby’s art museum and visit campus for speakers.

Only time will tell what the relationship between Colby and Waterville will bring, but the hiring of Paul Ureneck is a promising move. There is little doubt that he is an excellent fit for the job, and his connection to Maine gives this job and this project makes it personal.