Colby looks to purchase sixth property Downtown

As part of the ongoing revitalization of downtown Waterville, the College is seeking to purchase a current parking lot in order to construct a multi-use facility comprised of a dormitory and retail space.

The ¾ acre lot is located on the Concourse, a large parking lot and strip mall off of Main Street, that was developed in the 1960s and currently plays host to the farmer’s market from April through November. The buildings that once occupied the space were popular among students, especially prior to the move to the current Mayflower Hill campus.

Although the College has expressed interest in purchasing the land which is currently owned by the City, the Waterville City Council must approve the sale. On Tuesday, January 19, The City Council voted 6-0 to allow City Manager, Mike Roy, the ability to begin negotiations with the College. In an interview with The Morning Sentinel, Roy expressed that he believes the sale will be finalized this year. The vote followed ongoing discussions between councilors, Roy, and Mayor Nick Isgro. Isgro has been a strong partner for the College and has supported the revitalization efforts. The construction of a building would eliminate parking spaces and potentially increase traffic on Main Street.

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Proposed changes to Main Street as part of traffic improvements. Illustrations provided by “Downtown Vision Report.”

The lot is located on the same intersection as two of the buildings the College purchased in late 2015. President of the College David A. Greene has expressed his desire to have a boutique hotel, student dorms, and faculty living space on Main Street or in the downtown Waterville area. The College has further partnered with the Maine Department of Transportation and the City to conduct traffic research in order to make sure that students will have easy transportation to and from the campus. In
an announcement on colby.edu/downtown, the website that details Colby’s partnership with the City, the College detailed its intention to fund one-third of the study. The announcement stated: “In addition to successful businesses, a vibrant downtown has spacious sidewalks, sufficient parking, and smooth traffic…Colby’s decision to participate is part of its commitment to help make Waterville a regional destination and a dynamic place to live and work.” 
The City Council also voted unanimously, 6-0, to approve spending $35,000 on a traffic consultant.

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Downtown revitalization plan as outlined in the “Downtown Vision Report” jointly produced by Colby College and the City of Waterville.

Colby recently closed on its fifth building in the Downtown area. 14 Main Street is located nearby previous purchases. Assistant to the President and Director of Planning Brian Clark, in an interview with the Echo, commented that the College is pursuing a strategy that will impact the base economy of the city in the fastest way. “Getting people living and using the street is the number one thing we can do,”  commented Clark. Clark previously worked with Greene at the University of Chicago and oversaw the development of new academic centers, coordinated campus master planning, and led major capital projects. Greene, working with Clark, helped facilitate the revitalization of the 53rd street community, an economically struggling area that is nearby the Univeristy of Chicago.

The commitment to having students live on Main Street would provide crucial economic support to many struggling businesses in the area and help to attract new businesses and corporations. In December, the College announced that it had lobbied for Collaborative Consulting, a technology consulting firm based in Massachusetts, to establish a delivery center in the City to provide more jobs for Waterville residents. The College is also attempting to lure more businesses to relocate to Waterville.