Planning Board decides downtown properties

The downtown Waterville revitalization project is progressing as the College continues with its extensive planning. This past Monday, the Waterville Planning Board discussed Colby’s plan for the downtown student apartment complex.

The apartment complex will be located on part of the Waterville Concourse parking lot. The meeting covered the size of the complex, how many people are projected to be living there, sidewalk plans, and other details. Additionally, on January 31, the Waterville City Council voted on the sale of the land to Colby.

However, Waterville maintains a policy in which the City Council must pass two votes before selling land to any entity, so a final vote must be made before the sale can be finalized.

Tangible change is already occurring downtown. One of Colby’s properties, 173 Main Street, will be among the first to  complete extensive renovations and will be opening as early as July of this year. Colby Director of Communications, Kate Carlisle, said that the College has gutted and are in the process of restoring the “beautiful historic building.” The upper floors of the building will be used as office space, specifically for CGI Group Inc., a computer consulting company that acquired Collaborative Consulting in November, 2016. Collaborative Consulting was enticed to relocate to Waterville after extensive conversations and financial incentives were made with the College. The first floor space will be reserved for two separate retail spaces.

Carlisle attributes much of the success of the project so far to the cohesive partnerships Colby has developed. “It’s great to see the momentum and the progress downtown. With the help of Colby’s partners in the city, and arts, leadership, and philanthropic partners like the Alfond foundation, we are seeing a revitalization that’s going to bring hundreds of people to Main Street,” Carlisle said.

Area college students can look forward to a transformed downtown, but many current students will not see the project come to fruition during their time on the Hill. Maine Biz reported that, “Colby will spend more than its own $10 million and dip into the general capital fund of the [College]. [President Greene] estimates some $65 million in investment from all sources, including private developers, will go into Main Street in Waterville over the next five years.”

President Greene has a vision of a thriving downtown market. Last fall, he said, “I hope within five years we’d be in a place where we have a vibrant Main Street that’s becoming a destination, and in 10 years have a sustainable business model…where the market takes over.”