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With plans to build four new buildings over the next 10 years, all of them across Mayflower Hill Drive from the existing academic quadrangle, Colby College will launch an expansive earthmoving and landscaping project later this year on the east side of its 714-acre campus in Waterville. Colby’s Board of Trustees approved spending $6.2 million on the first phase of an ambitious plan to extend the campus, with the centerpiece of the new district to be called the Colby Green.
College officials expect to have the necessary permits in hand by late summer or early fall to break ground for the Colby Green, an elliptical lawn directly across the road from the terraces in front of Miller Library. The proposed lawn, modeled on a traditional New England town common, eventually will anchor four buildings: the existing Lunder House, which serves as the college’s admissions office; an alumni and development center that will house administrative offices and space for college and alumni functions; and two new academic buildings, one for the sciences and the other to house social science and interdisciplinary programs.
Groundbreaking for the alumni center is slated for the spring of 2004 and the social science/interdisciplinary building will follow. But substantial groundwork is required first, including landscaping the Colby Green, building sophisticated systems for collecting and treating storm-water runoff and installing much of the infrastructure, including utility service to all the construction sites planned in the new district. In addition to the buildings to be located on the Colby Green, a music instruction and performance center is envisioned facing the Runnals Building and just across from Woodman and Coburn halls, but that building would not be completed until after 2010, according to current timetables.
Landscaping and earthwork to build the Colby Green accounts for about $2 million of the $6.2-million price tag for phase one of Colby’s campus expansion plans. Funds for building construction are being handled separately. Phase one will begin with cut-and-fill grading to build a terrace down from the roadway and to start shaping the elliptical green. An estimated 60,000 cubic yards of soil will be moved to build Colby Green, about half of which would be brought in as fill. The earthwork will raise the back edge of what is now a field between Lunder House and the tennis courts so the land will no longer fall away into the woods. The view out over the Kennebec Valley and the Dixmont Hills will remain open.
Phase one will encompass 14.5 acres and will develop the site for the alumni center and associated parking areas, which will be terraced into the land. Phase two will develop sites for the two additional academic buildings on Colby Green and will continue plantings. Phase three will develop the site for the music and performance building and will replace lost parking with more terraced parking areas.
Since the Colby Green will be the site of the first academic buildings east of the roadway, concerns about traffic through the campus were raised early in the campus planning effort. The state’s proposed Biennial Department of Transportation Improvement Program included engineering funds for a bypass that will eliminate the steep hill between Colby and North Street, rerouting that traffic onto the County Road, behind Colby’s field house and soccer fields. When complete the bypass is expected to reduce traffic flow through the campus. It also will allow the roadway, currently state-maintained, to become a locally-maintained thoroughfare, permitting the implementation of a reduced speed limit and traffic-calming measures. Discussions in 2001, which proposed building either a new road east of the Colby Green district or a southern bypass to route traffic coming up Mayflower Hill Drive past the campus to Washington Street, have been abandoned.
Environmental regulations require the college to collect, manage and treat storm-water runoff created by new campus development and construction. Systems have been designed to handle not just the impact of the first phase of new development but of all the development proposed in the long-range plan. Proposed filtration chambers and settling ponds also will handle and clean runoff created by historic construction on the Mayflower Hill campus—development that goes back more than 60 years to before environmental regulations existed. In the end, despite all the new development, the environmental remediation systems will produce a net improvement in the quality of storm-water runoff as it exits the campus, and ongoing erosion damage in and around the edge of the woodlands will be repaired.
Colby’s original campus was downtown, between the Kennebec River and the railroad track, on College Avenue. In 1929 Colby trustees voted to move to a new campus on Mayflower Hill, and residents of the city donated the land. With the Great Depression followed by World War II, progress was slowed, but construction of the new campus was begun in the late 1930s and the College completed its move to Mayflower Hill in 1952. Since 1937 Colby has completed 62 buildings. One of several American college campuses designed by Jens Frederick Larson, Colby’s is considered one of the most handsome campuses in the United States.
The plans approved by Colby trustees in April are the result of several years of planning involving firms from Maine and Massachusetts. The architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott, of Boston, was engaged to help Colby develop a master plan for the campus. Reed Hilderbrand, a landscape architecture firm from Watertown, Mass., developed the schematic plans for the Colby Green and for campus landscaping. Mohr & Seredin Landscape Architects, of Portland, is preparing construction documents for phase one and designed the environmental remediation systems associated with the plan.