The Harold Alfond Foundation and Colby will invest $20 million in the ongoing revitalization of downtown Waterville. The transformative funding includes a $10-million grant from the foundation and a matching investment by Colby.
Greg Powell, board chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation, and David A. Greene, president of Colby, announced the funding at a celebration Oct. 18 in the heart of downtown Waterville at Castonguay Square.
“When this community steps forward and rolls up its sleeves,” Powell said, citing the teamwork behind revitalization plans, “the Foundation will step up to match your efforts.”
Speaking before a crowd representing business, city government, Colby, and the arts, he declared that “Waterville’s future is all about teamwork and the leadership on display tonight.” The funds will support efforts to jumpstart and sustain development at both ends of Waterville’s Main Street. These initiatives include five properties purchased by Colby in the past year and slated for redevelopment, as well as a planned student apartment complex.
“A year ago we talked about what was possible,” Greene said. “Today we get to talk about what is going to become real.”
Tuesday’s announcement caps months of good news for downtown and the area as ongoing collaboration by Colby, the city, and downtown business leaders has resulted in a comprehensive plan for rejuvenation of the city center. It calls for opening of offices for a tech firm, Collaborative Consulting, at the soon-to-be renovated 173 Main St., construction of the student housing complex and retail space in a portion of The Concourse parking lot, and building of a hotel and restaurant at the south end of the street. Traffic pattern and parking changes are also being considered as part of the effort to bring investment and new energy to the downtown.
Greene recalled the city’s commitment to Colby when, in 1929, the community raised $107,000 to buy Mayflower Hill and present it to Colby as the site of a new campus. “For that we’re eternally grateful,” Greene said. “To be able to return that favor now is something that is important to us and we’re glad to be able to do it with the help of the Alfond Foundation.”
On Main Street there is tangible evidence of the downtown transformation. Demolition of the landmark Levine’s building, an unavoidable move that Greene described as “bittersweet,” is underway as the site is prepared for construction of the hotel and restaurant. The former Elks building on Appleton Street has been razed to provide additional parking at the north end of Main Street. Sale of The Concourse property to Colby by the city is nearing completion, according to city officials. Two other buildings adjoining the 173 Main at the north end of the thoroughfare have been purchased by developers for renovation.
Even before news of the Alfond Foundation and Colby funding, the downtown revitalization plan had been embraced by city officials and business leaders. At Tuesday’s event, Mayor Nick Isgro said that when the community comes together “our future is as bright as our imagination.”
Also in attendance Tuesday was Waterville native and former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, who has applauded the downtown efforts and the collaboration that is making it possible. “Every one of us as children was taught to believe that one person can make a difference,” Mitchell said. “In terms of the challenge Waterville faces and the response to that challenge,” Mitchell said, “David Greene is the man of the moment, and all of us in Waterville owe a great debt of gratitude to him personally and to the great institution that he represents, Colby, which is such an integral part of our community.”