A year in review: Colby downtown investment

Louisa Goldman

Bill and Joan Alfond Main Street Commons as of May 1, 2018

The Hains Building

In 2015, the College bought the Hains building, located at 173 Main Street, just across from the future downtown dorm for $220,000. Following Colby’s investment of nearly $5 million in rehabilitation efforts, 15 Colby employees began to occupy office downtown in early August of 2017. Within months, tech consulting firm CGI moved into the third and fourth floors of the building.

In addition to these developments, Portland Pie Company, a Pizza-chain based out of its namesake city, announced in February that it had leased space on the ground floor and would be opening a Waterville location this Spring. Come July, Student-run discount athletic gear rental service Europiste will begin operating within the Hains building as well.

“This is a step in developing economic stability,” Brian Clark, Colby’s Vice President of Planning, said of the Hains building investment in a previous interview with the Echo. “We’re working with an attainable set of goals. It’s all attainable.”

Bill and Joan Alfond Main Street Commons

Colby’s determination to make its downtown presence known is quite possibly most visible through the construction of the downtown dorms. Located centrally in the Concourse parking lot, construction began last summer, and will be completed in the near future. Students will move in Fall 2018.

The goal of the downtown dorms, Clark explained, is to ignite “some real activity to Main Street to catalyze economic development and growth.” Indeed, students living in the downtown dorm will be allowed to opt out of the default unlimited-swipe meal plan and drop down to a 100-swipe maximum. In addition, each room will be equipped with its own kitchen, encouraging residents to venture into the city for dining options and/or local ingredients.

Waterville Creates! Partnership at 93 Main Street

In early March, the College announced its intentions to partner with art community center Waterville Creates! to renovate the organization’s current building at 93 Main Street.

The proposed $20 million project will include a complete rehabilitation of the property, including the addition of a complete glass facade, street-visible access to the Waterville Opera House, and the relocation of the Railroad Square Cinema and Maine Film Center.

“The building itself is in really tough shape,” Brian Clark said in a previous interview with the Echo. “It’s certainly outlived its useful life, which is a fancy way of saying that it’s starting to fall apart. So there’s some real urgency, I would say, to preserving this building into the future.”

The project is still in the midst of its fund-raising phase, and will likely start construction in 2019.

The Levine and Camden National Bank buildings

Around the same time of the Hains Building purchase, Colby bought the property at 9 Main Street in 2015. Formerly known as the Levine building, after its namesake department store, the College tore down the building in Summer of 2016 and hired Portland-based development firm The Olympia Companies in January 2017 to help create a boutique hotel.

Since 2016, the lot has remained vacant, the biggest development regarding the project being Colby’s decision to terminate the aforementioned agreement with the Olympia Companies in the wake of sexual abuse allegations against the firm’s CEO. Despite the fact that the allegations have since been revoked, the College stood by its decision to self-develop the hotel, moving the planned location to the Camden National Bank building at 33 Main Street (adjacent to the Levine building), which was bought in late March. It is unclear how the vacant lot at 9 Main Street will be incorporated within plans for the hotel, however the College still plans on utilizing it.

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