When the 1929 Maine Higher Education Survey Report gave Colby’s campus an unfavorable review, then President Franklin W. Johnson searched for ways to change the campus and consequently its reputation. According to the Colby archives, however, the College’s subsequent plan to move to Augusta was complicated when the Great Depression hit.
Despite the Great Depression, in a meeting in what was at the time the Waterville Savings Bank, locals raised $100,000 to convince the College to stay in Waterville and move to Mayflower Hill. Standing in the same room, Director of Commercial Real Estate Paul Ureneck spoke to the Echo about plans for the building’s retail project.
According to Ureneck, 173 Main Street will house a retail space on the first floor, offices for Colby staff on the second floor, and offices for the CGI Group on the upper floors. The office spaces are expected to open late this summer and Ureneck said the retail spaces on the ground floor will as well. He and several College administrators have been in contact with students, faculty, staff, and Waterville residents to discuss what kind of stores they would prefer. Ureneck said that multiple developers have already expressed interest in the spaces.
The College hopes to attract more independent private capital investment to Main Street, not only to lessen its own costs, but also to demonstrate to business owners that Waterville’s downtown is a desirable place to operate a business. With this, Ureneck hopes that more people will also be encouraged to live on Main Street.
Ureneck said his colleagues are still debating plans for the 14-20 Main Street buildings, though they are being considered as a possible location for residential spaces.
Downtown planners also anticipate adding a new Appleton Street entrance to the 173 Main Street building, which will specifically be for the CGI Group (see bottom right photo).
With regard to other projects, Ureneck said that the College formally signed its contract with Olympia Companies two weeks ago. The Olympia Companies are a Maine-based group that will carry out the planning for the College-funded boutique hotel at the end of Main Street, and it will also function as the manager of the hotel when it opens in the fall of 2018. A request for proposals has also been sent out to architects for the hotel, and Ureneck anticipates a quick return.
The hotel is in the place of the old Levine’s building, and Ureneck described its demolition as a “bittersweet” moment for Waterville. According to the Historic Downtown Waterville Guide, the Levine’s building was important for many locals. The building was first owned by Polish immigrant William Levine, who moved to Maine from New York City in 1884 and sold clothing from a horse and wagon before buying the storefront downtown. In later years, descendants of William Levine, Pacy and Ludy Levine, emphasized the Colby-Waterville bond in the store’s “Colby Corner” which sold Colby apparel. Although many locals miss the historic store, Ureneck hopes that the new hotel will be a welcomed addition to Main Street.
Though many students simply refer to the Concourse as the “downtown dorm,” Ureneck said he is hoping to change the language of the project to reflect its mixed-use purposes since it has 9,000 square feet of retail space.
The planners said that there will be multiple smaller retail posts, as opposed to one large store, underneath the student living complex. Additionally, a large separate area will be set-aside for the Center for Civic Engagement that will be used by both locals and members of the College community. Plans for the site were made official last week when the Waterville City Council officially voted to sell the Concourse to the College.
As the plans progress for many of the downtown spaces, it is increasingly evident that the College hopes to strengthen its partnership with the Waterville community, as many properties integrate spaces for locals and students alike.