The College’s vision of a revitalized Waterville is becoming more of a reality than a dream, leading students to think in concrete terms about what life for a Colby student will look like in 2020. The plans for downtown include a new boutique hotel, a newly-built river walk, and a transformed Main Street. For the first time in decades, hundreds of students will also be living together in a dormitory on Main street, spending money downtown, and inviting friends on Mayflower Hill to join them in their endeavors. Although the academic scene will still remain on the Hill, student’s social lives will move downtown.
While the general sentiment among students seems to be one of excitement, some worry that the new emphasis on Waterville’s downtown will take away from the current campus-centric nature of student life. One main concern in this regard seems to surround the addition of the new student dorm complex on Main Street. Students express concern that this might create a divide in the social life between on-campus parties and off-campus parties. Walker Foehl ’19 explained this theory by saying that “now people flock to the Apartments, but in the future it seems like people will flock downtown instead.”
Foehl continued to say that “one thing that is so special about the Colby social life is that it is very inclusive, and with more people living off campus it could create room for more exclusivity.” The structure of weekend nights will likely change, and could entail more students heading to bars downtown on Fridays and Saturdays, in addition to the traditional Thursday Colby nights at bars. More students might also convene at the downtown dorm before and after nights out. Student safety in un-patrolled areas, and the likelihood of automobile accidents, will both be growing concerns.
Other students believe that the new downtown will provide students with an opportunity to spend more time in a real-world environment and live in less of a bubble. Olivia Selemon ’19 commented that she thinks the revitalization will be great for students because it will give them an opportunity to “get off campus and sit in a cafe and bond.” She also remarked that sometimes “weekends don’t even feel like a break because I only leave campus to do homework at Starbucks, and if there were shops or other cafes, I could take a break from school and find pleasure elsewhere and be able to reboot my mental capacity to learn and focus.”
Grace Eagan ’19 echoed those sentiments and said that she “loves going to Selah Tea and the farmers’ market,” but thinks that the College really has to “commit” in order to make the town a place where students truly enjoy spending time. Catharine Christie ’19 told The Echo that she was “excited to converse with citizens who are not only college-aged people.”
Some think that the project could perpetuate the “bubble” in terms of interacting with Waterville locals. After this past weekend, when the propensity for poor relations between Waterville residents and Colby students was evident at the Kesha concert, some students worry that these interactions could foreshadow future relations. Eliza Perry ’19 said “if we were viewed so poorly at Kesha, having so many students in downtown Waterville might be an issue—at least in the beginning.” With any new transition, it is understandable that there will be an adjustment period for both the town to get used to Colby students, and for Colby students to get used to the town.
On the other hand, integrating the College and the town could have a positive effect. One possible reason for tense relations could be the unfamiliarity between the students and the Waterville community, and with the College having a bigger presence downtown, the overlap of students and citizens would seem more comfortable. In 2020, Arianna Finger ’19 predicts that there will be a “great balance of time spent in town with new shops and restaurants, but still a fair amount of time on campus for classes, sporting events, clubs, and the new athletic center.”
In addition, Waterville residents often take advantage of Colby facilities, such as the athletic center and the libraries. An influx of students downtown might remind citizens of what the College has to offer, from our art museum to our coffee house. There are enormous economic and social incentives for an integrated Waterville for both sides: Colby and the town.
Although Colby students may not be able to agree on exactly what life will be like in 2020, they can agree that the town will look completely different and are looking forward to coming back to Waterville in the future to see all the exciting changes.