The Revitalization of Downtown Waterville
Colby-led collaboration is revitalizing Waterville’s Main Street and shaping the city and the College for the future
Over the past century, significant changes in industry and manufacturing have left their impact on downtown Waterville. The closure and eventual decommissioning of the mills, along with the radical transformation of urban renewal projects of the 1960s, significantly changed the city’s character, turning what was once a dense and vibrant downtown into a less cohesive patchwork of spaces.
However, the downtown was left with many buildings of immense historic and aesthetic value. The city has leveraged these valuable assets while transforming downtown through many exciting projects led by private investors, the City of Waterville, and Colby College.
Since 2014 Colby’s downtown revitalization efforts have totaled approximately $85 million, including the $18-million Paul J. Schupf Art Center; the $26-million Lockwood Hotel with its popular Front & Main restaurant; the $6.5-million Greene Block + Studios; and the $25-million Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons that houses 200 Colby faculty and students deeply involved in civic engagement activities throughout the city. Total investment downtown from Colby, private, and public sources is now $200 million.
These principles were agreed upon through collaboration with the City of Waterville and the members of the stakeholder workshops. They are a work in progress and meant to guide development while being subject to continual discussion and refinement. These principles reflect the framework for revitalization city council adopted in February 2016.
Leverage Existing Strengths
Build upon existing arts programming, create public art in key locations, strengthen connections to the waterfront, connect Main Street to Hathaway Creative Center
Attract More Visitors and Residents
Build a student residence downtown, public realm improvements for visitors, welcoming gateway improvements, parking strategy
Increase Economic Activity
Create new generators such as a hotel and student residence, address vacant space downtown, attract investment by others, target key businesses to downtown
Create a Sense of Place
Improve streetscape and pedestrian experience, attract strategic retailers, build upon existing programs
Organize Around a Plan
Create consensus and continue a process of public engagement, collaboration, and implementation
Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons
The Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons is a living and learning community that offers apartment-style residences in the heart of downtown Waterville. Opened in fall 2018, it is home to 200 Colby students, faculty, and staff who are deeply engaged in our city, while also serving and supporting a variety of business, civic, and community organizations.
Greene Block + Studios
A center for innovation in the arts, providing a home for vibrant arts programming and creative space for the development of original work in the heart of Waterville. Located at 18 Main Street, the Greene Block + Studios serves as an event and convening space with artistic programming designed to inspire lifelong connections between people and the arts. The Greene Block + Studios is the home of both the Lunder Institute’s Residential Fellowship Program for practicing artists as well as the Colby College Arts Office.
The Lockwood Hotel
Merging the classic, natural beauty of New England with the comfort and convenience of modern hospitality, our downtown Waterville hotel offers a one-of-a-kind home base for exploring Maine’s many unexpected treasures. Offering idyllic views of vibrant Main Street or the rushing waters of the Kennebec River, each of our 53 hotel rooms and suites in central Maine sets the stage for an unforgettable New England escape. The hotel’s on-site restaurant, Front & Main, aims to transform the local food scene with creative nourishing cuisine sourced lovingly from Maine’s own farms, fields, bays, and oceans.
Paul J. Schupf Art Center
The $18-million Paul J. Schupf Art Center, in the heart of downtown Waterville on Main Street, will be a lively, distinctive hub for visual and performing arts, film, and arts education. The 32,000-square-foot building, which will be completed in late 2022, will house Waterville Creates, the Ticonic Gallery + Studios, the Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art, an extension of the Colby College Museum of Art, and the Maine Film Center, operating three cinemas and hosting the annual Maine International Film Festival. The center, designed to emphasize the importance of community with its flexible, collaborative, and open spaces, will include a classroom, pottery studio, rehearsal room, and communal gathering areas, allowing the public to further engage with the arts. The innovative design also includes an enclosed glass skywalk that will connect the center with the historic 800-seat Waterville Opera House.
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