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Colby, Waterville Creates! collaborate on downtown arts building renovation

3/7/2018
Photo / Colby College rendering
Photo / Colby College rendering
A rendering of the proposed art hub being developed by Colby College and Waterville Creates! At front, 93 Main St., City Hall is at the rear.

WATERVILLE — A landmark downtown building will be renovated, reduced and developed into an arts hub in a collaboration between Colby College and nonprofit Waterville Creates!
The building, at 93 Main St., The Center, which borders the west side of Castonguay Square, is owned by Waterville Creates!, which bought it in 1996 when the organization was the Waterville Regional Arts and Community Center.
The project is expected to cost between $18 and $20 million, $8 million of which has already been raised, said Brian Clark, Colby vice president of planning, who is also a member of Waterville Creates! board of directors. The project would take 18 months to complete once the money is raised and design is complete.
The 64,000 square-foot building will be reduced to 32,000 square feet under the plan, connected to adjacent City Hall and Waterville Opera House with a two-story atrium, which will also replace much of the brick facade along Castonguay Square.
The project design will be finalized once fundraising goals are met, and then it will go through planning board review and city permitting, Shannon Haines, executive director of Waterville Creates!, told Mainebiz Tuesday.

Architects Susan T. Rodriguez of New York City and G-O Logic of Belfast have developed the preliminary designs for the space, which is still in the planning stages, Colby and Waterville Creates! officials said in a news release.
The new design would make the entry to the Waterville Opera House, which is on the upper floors of City Hall, behind the 93 Main St. building, more accessible. The current public access is from a side door to City Hall. The plan would give the Opera House, which underwent a $5 million renovation in 2012, a Main Street presence.
The building will also be home to what is now the Railroad Square Cinema, as well as a cafe, a Colby College Museum of Art contemporary art gallery on the ground floor, Common Street Arts gallery, and multi-purpose arts education sites.
The glass facade facing Castonguay Square — a park that is bordered by the building, City Hall and Common Street — will make the Opera House more visible from Main Street “and enliven downtown at night,” the release said.
The main access for arts programming will be through a shared entrance and atrium on Main Street.
“The transparency of the building is also intended to signal the center’s accessibility to all,” the release said.
“With the creation of this facility we will introduce a central destination to attract visitors to the city from across Maine and beyond, add to the local economy, and make Waterville a more vibrant place to live and work,” said Colby President David Greene in the release.
The Maine Film Center, which hosts the 10-day Maine International Film Festival, which screens films at Railroad Square and the Opera House, would have three screens in the new cinema, two with 75 seats and one with 150.
“It will allow the Maine Film Center to fully realize its mission to enrich, entertain, and educate the community, adding year-round filmmaking workshops, lectures and classes to its repertoire,” said Maine Film Center Executive Director Mike Perreault, a 2013 Colby graduate. 

Haines said the organization and Colby “are working together to ensure a long-term viable ownership and funding model that will keep the building well cared for into the future.”
She said the building is actually two distinct structures, the southern half built by Montgomery Ward department store in 1938, and the rear portion dating to the 1800s. City tax records show the northern part dating back to 1890.
The arts organization bought the building 22 years ago and interior space was leased to a several businesses and nonprofits.
The building’s most recent transformation began two years ago, when Waterville Creates! moved across Castonguay Square from 16 Common St. The organization markets arts and culture in the area, and its partners are the Colby College Museum of Art, Common Street Arts, Maine Film Center, Waterville Opera House and Waterville Public Library.
The organization said in 2016 its goal was to make the building an arts hub. The ground floor, which had housed nonprofit community engagement group REM, was made into art exhibit and studio space and REM moved to the basement. REM last summer moved a block away, to Temple Street.
The latest plan means that tenants — including WABI-TV, Community Dental Center, ground-floor tenant Maine Made and More and others — would relocate.
The building is two blocks to the east of Colby College’s under-construction Alfond Commons multi-use building at 150 Main St. and its recently renovated 173 Main St. retail/office space.
Two blocks to the east, the site where the college’s hotel will be going up on the corner of Main and Spring streets. The 42-room hotel will be built by Portland’s The Olympia Cos.