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The 100,000-square-foot complex is the first College-owned residence downtown since Colby’s move to Mayflower Hill in the mid-20th century
Marking an important moment in the history of Colby College and the City of Waterville, the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, housing 200 students, faculty, and staff, opened this month in downtown Waterville. Part of a broader revitalization effort undertaken by the College, city leaders, and local businesspeople and community organizations, the complex is bringing energy to downtown and will ultimately deepen the connection between the Colby community and the broader Waterville community.
“This project grabbed my interest because I was a Waterville boy, and I have always wanted to see Colby and Waterville be more closely tied together,” said Trustee Bill Alfond ’72 who, along with his wife, Joan, made a leadership gift toward the effort. “I see this as a bridge between two things I love—the College and the city.”
The student residential experience at Alfond Commons will be centered around a robust civic engagement program that ties the students’ academic pursuits to their work with local organizations. Through their research, coursework, and service, students will participate in efforts of nonprofits and other organizations and contribute expertise and analysis to help the community better understand a range of issues and how to solve complex challenges.
“The opening of the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons marks a pivotal moment for Colby and the city it has proudly called home for two centuries,” said President David A. Greene. “This development is a critical step in physically reconnecting the city and the College and helping to support a vibrant Main Street for businesses, residents, and visitors.”
Civic Engagement Re-envisioned
With the opening of the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, Colby is implementing a new and innovative program for civic engagement and community partnerships. Students residing in the complex are required to participate in civic engagement activity that will connect them to community organizations, enhancing their learning and contributing to the important work of these groups.
“We are developing a set of experiences that support our local partners while at the same time preparing our students to be active participants who will create positive change in the communities,” said Dean of the College Karlene Burrell-McRae ’94, who oversees the efforts. “Our hope is that this program can become a national model for civic engagement.”
Commitment to Downtown
Increasing residential density on Main Street has been a central element of a broad strategy to make Waterville a lively, welcoming place for residents and visitors. In the past three years, Colby has renovated a historic bank building that now houses the global tech company CGI, as well as Portland Pie Co. on the retail level. Colby is currently developing plans for a hotel that will be located at the other end of Main Street and bring more visitors to downtown, and Colby has partnered with Waterville Creates! on a center for contemporary art and film, also on Main Street.
“A primary goal of our downtown efforts has been to catalyze outside investment and commercial growth, bringing energy and a sustainable economic model to the city,” said Vice President of Planning Brian Clark. “We expect the opening to add to the incredible momentum we are seeing in Waterville, with new businesses opening, new jobs coming to the city, and overall growth in population and real estate activity.”
The Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons is located on the site of a former parking lot, where buildings were demolished during urban renewal. It marks the first new construction on the downtown section of Main Street in more than 50 years.
Supporting Community and Commerce
The first level of the complex was designed to support community organizations as well as businesses that will complement the existing mix on Main Street and benefit from being located in brand-new retail spaces with up-to-date infrastructure. Camden National Bank will be moving into the southeast corner of the building this fall.
Colby’s investments in downtown, which currently total $65 million, have begun to catalyze additional activity. In the past year the downtown area has seen more real estate transactions than in several previous years combined, which is resulting in both new jobs and an increased property tax base.
The Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons includes 52 student apartments and eight faculty/staff apartments. Student apartments either include four or six single-occupancy bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living area, and a kitchen to allow students to prepare their own meals. The complex includes academic and study spaces, including a classroom on the second floor and a reading room on the fifth floor, two two-story social lounges for students, two laundry rooms, a small fitness room, and a yoga/wellness studio.
On the ground level, the Chace Community Forum provides a large meeting and event space that will be available to community partners at no charge. The Waterville City Council and planning board will also hold their meetings in the new space. Camden National Bank will move into the building this fall, and other retail tenants are currently being identified.
A Colby-owned parking lot on Appleton Street will be the primary parking for students, and residents are encouraged to park on campus and use the continuously running shuttle to and from Mayflower Hill.
Student residents of Alfond Commons are in their junior and senior years and were identified based on their commitment to civic engagement. The majority of students will move into the building Sept. 3 (Labor Day). A ribbon cutting will take place Sept. 6 at 10 a.m., followed by a reception and student-led tours.