Envisioning a College Town


Paul Boghossian '76 has a vision of a vibrant, newly energized downtown Waterville,and it is a vision that's expanding.

By Gerry Boyle '78, P'06
Photography by Fred Field

An aerial view of downtown Waterville, the Kennebec River, and the waterfront factories that would be renovated as part of an alum's plan to help revitalize the city.
Photo by Fred Field
Boghossian and partner Tom Niemann, who are renovating the historic Hathaway factory in Waterville to house shops, offices, restaurants, and apartments, have optioned two adjacent former textile mills as part of a plan that ultimately could have 1,000 people living and working in a complex along the Kennebec River.

"I think it's the right time and it's the right project," Boghossian said recently over coffee at a Waterville café. "I think it's going to catalyze some great changes for Waterville."

Based in Rhode Island, he has teamed with Niemann, a developer from Durham, N.C., whose credits include the largest historic renovation in that state's history. The Waterville project has grown in scope with the addition of the former Lockwood mill (recently a Marden's Surplus & Salvage facility) and an adjacent factory building that most recently housed offices for Central Maine Power Co.

Thomas College and Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield are seriously interested in using portions of the former Lockwood mill for more than 100 units of student housing. That influx of students, with Colby's presence in the city, could return Waterville to its status as a true college town. "That adds a vibrancy to downtown that is unbelievable," Boghossian said.

Plans call for a paved riverfront pathway extending from the Thomas campus through Waterville's South End and Head of Falls (along Front Street, where an unrelated town-house development has been proposed) to Fairfield, where a riverfront trail already has been developed. Also on the drawing board is a possible boutique hotel, Boghossian said.

As the project moves from vision to reality, there has been tremendous support from the community, he said. The project offers the city an entirely new form of living, said Ken Viens '73, a stockbroker active in the Waterville business community. For Alan Rancourt '75, president of Kennebec Federal Savings on Main Street, the renovation of the former Lockwood mill is a reminder of a research project he did as a Colby student. Rancourt studied the closing of the Lockwood/Duchess textile mill after workers struck during a labor dispute in the 1950s.

More than 3,000 workers lost their jobs. A half-century later, the mill may have a new life.
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  • On September 15, 2006, melissa abers wrote:
    this is a fabulous idea! something that waterville--and colby-needs desparately! maybe colby will run a free shuttle to and from?