Creating a student residential complex on Main Street would help the city in multiple ways:
- New taxable space, including retail that would attract different kinds of retailers
- About 150 new people to add vitality and consumer dollars during the days and evenings
- Helps to make Main Street a pedestrian-friendly street
- A core group of students dedicated to civic engagement who would contribute to the city in many ways
A historic rendering of Main Street, looking south. On the left is the Edith Building—one of two buildings that recently had its facade removed as part of a private investor’s redevelopment. In the mid-20th Century Waterville had a bustling downtown with many retail establishments.
Why should some Colby students live downtown?
Vibrant downtowns have people living in them. It is essential to have people on the street, during the day and in the evenings, who are spending money at local businesses. One immediate way Colby can use its resources to help spur vitality downtown is to have approximately 150 Colby students, along with some faculty and staff, living in an apartment complex on Main Street. Colby students are already deeply engaged with the Waterville community in various ways, and there is the sense among students that they would welcome the opportunity to live on Main Street and deepen their interaction and involvement with the city.
How will Colby account for lost parking?
Ensuring there is adequate parking to meet the needs of downtown today and in the future is critical. The city, in partnership with the State of Maine Department of Transportation and Colby, is undertaking a comprehensive transportation study to look at parking and traffic in broader context, and that study is taking into account anticipated residential and retail growth downtown. This is a public process that will engage the Waterville community in many ways over the course of the study. With respect to the student apartment complex, Colby is exploring ways to keep student long-term parking off the Concourse, including a Colby-operated shuttle to transport students—and others—to and from campus.
Two Main Street buildings under new ownership have recently had their facades removed, restoring them to their original elegance. Private investors, who have stated that they were inspired by the current revitalization partnership, plan to redevelop these properties.
Why can’t the sale of the Concourse property wait until the transportation study is complete?
The downtown revitalization strategy adopted by the Waterville City Council on February 2, 2016, identifies an interconnected set of actions for the revitalization of Waterville’s downtown. If one piece is pulled from the strategy, the prospects for a transformational revitalization effort are severely diminished. Moving forward now on a mixed-use development that would house residential units as well as ground floor retail would bring needed residential activity to the street, and this planning can be done in parallel with the transportation study that is also underway.
What would happen to the farmers market?
The successful Downtown Waterville Farmers Market is an important contributor to the city, drawing folks to the Main Street area and supporting local farmers and businesses. It’s exactly the kind of activity Colby hopes to see increasing. The farmers market leadership is supportive of the revitalization project. Colby made the commitment that the market can stay on the Concourse in 2016, agreed to help the market identify a new home downtown, and pledged to help ensure its success in other ways.
What’s the plan for the other five properties?
So far Colby has purchased five properties and the intent is to redevelop these properties along with the construction of a student apartment complex. A top priority for the College, along with the residential project, is the redevelopment of either the Levine’s or Hains properties as a boutique hotel. A hotel on Main Street would provide a new type of lodging experience in Waterville that will consistently bring a range of visitors to Main Street. In addition, the College is looking at mixed-use commercial and residential projects.
A concept drawing of the building at 173 Main Street (on the corner of Appleton and Main). While this is not an architectural rendering and plans for the building are still in process, it shows the potential for this historic building.
Why can’t Colby use its recently purchased buildings for student housing?
The College looked at the possibility of converting existing buildings for student residences and found that new construction was the best option for accommodating the necessary size and layout. Having students living together in one facility is also important for staffing and oversight of the building, and it allows Colby to develop a program of civic engagement and community partnership for the students living there. As discussed above, the College has plans for the reuse of the existing properties it has acquired.
Will the city tax Colby’s downtown properties?
All of the five properties the College has purchased that are on the tax rolls will remain on the tax rolls. As the College invests in improving these properties, the increased value of these properties will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue for the city each year. The Concourse is not currently taxable property, and the student residence with new retail space would also introduce new taxable space.
What kind of retail development is planned?
The opportunity to create new purpose-built retail space on the ground floor of the residential project would allow us to attract destination retailers to Main Street that require a larger footprint or have technical requirements that can be best met with new construction. This kind of retail would complement the mix that already exists downtown. While it’s too early to know who the retailers would be, we imagine a strategy based on iconic local Maine brands. Large or small, new commercial development means more jobs for Waterville, and increased retail activity on the street will benefit existing businesses by attracting more consumers to the area.
How would Colby ensure that the students living downtown behave appropriately?
Colby has had and continues to have discussions with the Waterville Police Department about the best way to manage an increased student presence. The residential project on Main Street is part of the College’s residential life program. Students living there would focus on, and be expected to, conduct meaningful work in the community. Students would be invited to live in this residence based on their proven commitment to civic engagement and would be held accountable to this commitment.
Who would be in charge of cleaning up, shoveling, and maintenance?
Colby is currently maintaining each of its buildings downtown, including sidewalk shoveling, and going forward, all of Colby’s buildings will be managed by a facility management firm that will be responsible for cleaning and maintenance of interiors, exteriors, and premises. Colby is also hiring a director of commercial real estate. That person will oversee the development of the College’s commercial properties and will maintain a visible presence on Main Street and in the community to ensure good communications, working relationships, and prompt resolution of any issues that may arise.
Would the building be vacant in the summer when most students are away?
Thousands of students and professionals, including many doctors in Continuing Medical Education programs, come to Waterville each year to participate in summer programs at Colby, and housing on Main Street would be an attractive option. This building would be occupied year-round.
What will the redevelopment look like, especially on the Concourse?
It’s too soon to tell at this point. Colby would work in partnership with a developer on the project and the exact layout and architecture of the building would be determined through that process and in consultation with the community. Colby has a rich tradition of architecture on its Mayflower Hill campus that will carry forward to this project and all of its projects downtown. We expect the residential building to be in scale with the rest of Main Street, four or five stories tall, with ground floor retail.
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