Downtown Transportation Meeting June 6

The public will have an opportunity to learn more and ask questions about the downtown revitalization process at a meeting June 6 in the Hathaway Creative Center. The last in a series of informational sessions sponsored by the City of Waterville and its partners, this session will include an overview of progress in the historic commercial downtown and focus on key themes of the planning process, including traffic, parking, and pedestrian access. Go here for information.

Traffic concerns, including proposals to make Main Street two-way and manage parking more efficiently, were the subject of a well-attended meeting May 9. The City’s traffic consultant, Gorrill Palmer, presented the data collected to date regarding traffic volumes, parking spaces, and safety. They also discussed expected increases for these items, as a result of growth in the downtown. To see a video of the event or view slides presented, go here.

Make Your Voice Heard – New Meetings Scheduled With Planners

Two additional opportunities for Waterville business owners and residents to meet with planners and partners in the downtown revitalization project have been scheduled for next week, and a meeting about the ongoing downtown transportation study is planned for May 9.

A series of well-attended meetings in April gave citizens a chance to share their hopes and concerns around the initiative and to review maps and architectural drawings showing areas targeted by the project. Some highlights from these meetings:

  • There was general agreement that two-way traffic on Main Street could help support the broader goals for the downtown revitalization
  • New and complementary retail will benefit current businesses
  • A parking system that works for all users is a necessity
  • The downtown needs to be a place that is safe and welcoming for employees, visitors, and residents

The additional informational meetings are set for 7 p.m. Monday, May 2, and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 3, in the City Council chamber. They are the final two of five focused on transportation and hosted by the city, Colby College, Waterville Main Street, and the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce. On May 9 at 7 p.m. in the Council chamber, the public can get an update on the transportation study.

Among the visuals presented at the April meetings by Neil Kittredge, a partner in the planning and architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle, were historic photos showing downtown Waterville as it was in the 1950s, with two-way traffic on Main Street, photographs of buildings there today, and architectural renderings of how a revitalized downtown might look in a few years.

Downtown Waterville from the air

Downtown Waterville from the air in 1950. Note two-way traffic on Main Street, and entry to downtown marked by a small park.

Downtown Waterville

Challenges in Downtown Waterville today include vacant buildings and difficult traffic patterns.

The Hains Building

The Hains Building as it is now, and an architect’s rendering of how it may appear after renovation.

Screenshot 2016-04-28 12.10.49

New Commercial Real Estate Director to Enhance Downtown Partnerships

Paul Ureneck

Paul Ureneck

Paul Ureneck, a longtime project manager and developer in Maine known for his community-building achievements, will soon become a familiar face on Main Street. He recently started as Colby’s first director of commercial real estate, and he will play a key role in the College’s partnership with Waterville to bring new development to downtown.

With more than 30 years of experience working in Maine, Ureneck has led projects ranging from downtown Portland’s redevelopment and the expansion of Allagash Brewery to Pineland Farms in New Gloucester and the restoration of the Winslow Homer Studio in Cape Elizabeth.

In addition to leading the development of Colby’s properties, Ureneck will work closely with the city, the business community, arts and cultural organizations, community groups, and others to ensure broad participation in downtown efforts. A series of meet-and-greets with Ureneck are being scheduled for downtown locations over the coming weeks.

Read more about Ureneck on the Colby College website.

City Council Votes Unanimously to Approve Sale of Concourse Site to Colby

Colby’s development of a student apartment complex on the Concourse in downtown Waterville can move forward, now that city council has approved the sale of land to the College in a 6-0 vote.

The required second vote on the sale on Feb. 16 paved the way for planning to proceed on the development, which will bring needed population density to Main Street and catalyze revitalization efforts downtown.

The Morning Sentinel covered the vote and positive reaction from stakeholders.

Sunday Globe Highlights Colby’s Efforts to Revitalize Waterville

greene-downtownColby’s efforts to catalyze redevelopment of downtown Waterville have caught the attention of the Boston Globe. “Something is stirring on the banks of the Kennebec River,” the article reads, and Colby’s investment “has begun to pay off.”

The story chronicles President Greene’s role in partnering with Waterville leaders and stakeholders to jump-start Waterville’s renaissance in much the way he helped remake part of Hyde Park while he was at the University of Chicago.

Attracting Collaborative Consulting to Waterville and increasing private investment in downtown are elements of the strategy that will contribute to success. “Once we get things moving, a lot of other dominoes will fall,” Greene told the Globe.

Read the Globe article, and read more about downtown revitalization efforts on the blog colby.edu/downtown.

Frequently Asked Questions re: Student Apartment Complex on Main Street

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
waterville-historic

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 by have recently had their facades removed, restoring them to their Victorian elegance. Private investors, who have stated that they were inspired by the current revitalization partnership, plan to redevelop these properties.

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.

hains-concept

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.

Additional questions are welcome: downtown@colby.edu.

Council Votes on Sale of Concourse Land; Transportation Study Launched

This week saw progress on several fronts in downtown revitalization efforts, as the Waterville City Council voted unanimously on a revitalization strategy for downtown Waterville and to sell part of the Concourse to Colby for a proposed student apartment complex, and a comprehensive transportation study was launched by the City to explore parking, traffic, and pedestrian access along Main Street.

In addressing the council, President David A. Greene called a student residence in this location the single most important element of Colby’s revitalization efforts. Having more people living on Main Street is critical, and the building would introduce taxable retail space to downtown and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment. A second and final vote will take place at the next city council meeting, on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Today’s Morning Sentinel covered the meeting.


On Monday, the traffic study paid for by the city of Waterville, the state of Maine, and Colby got rolling. In a public meeting hosted by the City, Engineers for Gorrill Palmer said the firm would review available data on traffic volume, assess future scenarios, identify bike and pedestrian issues, and do a transit analysis. The study is expected to be complete by July 1.

Morning Sentinel article


In other news:

  • Colby’s latest purchase, of 14 Main Street, increases to five the number of properties Colby now owns and plans to redevelop.
  • Screenshot 2016-02-03 18.02.59Justin DePre ’06 told the Sentinel that his family expects to renovate the former Atkins Printing buildings at 155-165 Main Street, with plans for retail, restaurants, and office space. Last week workers removed façade to reveal the original granite and red brick exterior. Attracting private investors to Main Street has been part of the strategy devised by the downtown stakeholder group from the beginning.
  • Collaborative Consulting, the Burlington, Mass., IT company that announced in December it’s opening a facility in Waterville, has hired its first employees and plans to start operating downtown in February. Collaborative Consulting plans to grow to 200 employees over the next several years.

Safety First

In addition to successful businesses, a vibrant downtown has spacious sidewalks, sufficient parking, and smooth traffic. The City of Waterville, the Maine Department of Transportation, and Colby have agreed to jointly hire a traffic consultant to study how to ensure that these features exist in downtown Waterville.

The Waterville City Council voted Jan. 5 to partner with Colby and the Maine DOT on this project, which was endorsed last summer by the downtown steering committee. As part of this partnership, the city, state, and the College have each agreed to fund one third of the study. Colby’s decision to participate is part of its commitment to help make Waterville a regional destination and a dynamic place to live and work.

City Council chairman John O’Donnell hails the traffic study as contributing to positive changes taking place in the city, the Morning Sentinel reports. Cooperation between the parties is key, and O’Donnell reports that all players are optimistic.

Morning Sentinel article

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

At a media and community event this morning, Colby President David Greene announced the creation of 200 tech jobs through Collaborative Consulting, a Mass.-based IT company that will open a center in Waterville in January. About 300 people filled Colby’s Page Commons to hear from Greene, Governor Paul LePage, Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro, and Collaborative Consulting Founder and CEO Bill Robichaud about the partnership that made this possible. Sustained economic development is a key part of Waterville’s revitalization.

Read more:

Colby News story

Morning Sentinel story

Boston Globe story

Press release

Major economic development and innovation announcement at Colby College

As part of continued revitalization efforts in Waterville, Maine, Governor Paul LePage and city leaders will join with Colby President David A. Greene to announce an important development that will contribute to sustained economic vitality in the region. While efforts to bring more vibrancy to downtown Waterville are still in the early stages, this announcement will show what is possible through the partnership of Colby, the city, the state, and private entities on a commitment to economic development.

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, 11 a.m.
Colby College
Page Commons, Cotter Union

Parking is available in the Eustis and Mary Low lots. Reception to follow.