Purchase of Waterville concourse approved

In recent months, Colby has been planning its role in the revitalization of Waterville, particularly the building of a new dormitory in downtown’s Concourse for 150 students, staff and faculty. Last Tuesday, these plans became a reality when the Waterville city council voted 6-0 to approve the purchase of the .77 acre site on The Concourse for $300,000.

Several local business owners  spoke in support of the sale. Paul Boghossian, developer of Waterville’s Hathaway Creative Center told the city councilors “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that we seize this opportunity right now.” He went on to say that his risky investment of more than $30 million into the renovation of the old mill paid off, with over 500 people now living and working in his building, and that if Waterville does not take risks and welcome them, the city will never experience revitalization. John Dalton, president and CEO of local Inland Hospital, also advocated for the sale, saying that it will create good jobs and support the children of the Waterville community, telling the board, “I urge you to vote yes and proceed with the selling of the land.”

Colby’s President David A. Greene also spoke on Tuesday on the equal partnership between the College and the city of Waterville to generate growth. In addition, Waterville’s Mayor Isgro extended his support of the sale and the collaboration between Colby and Waterville to improve Waterville’s downtown.

This was the second vote the City Council has taken on the sale, with the first occurring on February 2. Councilors voted to amend the land sale by adding a condition that required the owner of the property to make payments, instead of taxes, to the city if the property becomes partly or wholly tax-exempt. These payments would follow the same guidelines as property taxes.

Following the vote, Greene told centralmaine.com that, “More than anything, I feel a sense of obligation. This is the beginning; its not the end. It’s hardly a time for celebration; it’s time to get to work and to partner in a way that really supports the needs of the city.”

Colby’s involvement has encouraged others to invest in downtown. Bill Mitchell, who owns the local GHM Insurance Agency, has purchased two historic buildings on Common Street and is planning on renovating them. The DePre Family, who has ties to Colby through their son Justin ‘06, also bought two buildings on Main Street with plans of renovation. They also own four houses on Carroll Street that they rent to Colby students.

Building a dormitory and investing in downtown is just one part of Colby’s involvement in the economic comeback of Waterville. This past December, Greene, with Governor LePage in the audience, announced that Burlington, Massachusetts based company Collaborative Consulting would be opening a delivery center in Waterville and expects to employ 200 people within the next five years. Collaborative Consulting is currently working out of Kennebec Valley Community College, and has already hired five people, with plans to  hire another ten people by the end of the month.

Jamie Schwartz ’18 said “I’m really looking forward to seeing the things that President Greene and everyone else involved in Waterville’s reinvestment are planning to do with the concourse.”

As seen in several previous articles in The Echo, this sale is just one of the many purchases Colby has made over the past year. Colby has bought five buildings downtown with plans to partner with investors on the creation of a boutique hotel, stores, and restaurants. However, Colby does not plan to always own these buildings; they hope that downtown Waterville will eventually become self sustaining and generate tax revenue for the city. Ruth Jackson, Colby’s spokeswoman, stated on Tuesday that  “the college’s goal is not to own large parts of Main Street long-term, but we do expect to work to ensure the long-term viability of the projects.”