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April 2, 2018

Colby College: Downtown Waterville investment 'already paying off'

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Paul Ureneck, Colby College's director of commercial real estate, discusses construction of the Alfond Commons building in February. Construction of the building, at 150 Main St. in downtown Waterville, has already had a $14.5 million impact on local businesses working on the project, which began a year ago, the college said.

Colby College's $50 million investment in downtown Waterville is already showing an economic payoff in the local economy, the college said.

Construction on the 100,000-square-foot Bill and Joan Alfond Main Street Commons mixed-use building at 150 Main St. has brought $14.5 million to local businesses, Paul Ureneck, Colby's director of commercial real estate, said in a Thursday news release.

Since construction began a year ago, approximately 120 workers are employed on the site at any given time, including machine operators, excavators, and skilled tradesmen such as carpenters, glaziers, and electricians, Ureneck said.

Local vendors used in the project include Fortin's Home Furnishings of Winslow, which is supplying appliances for the building's 52 apartments, and American Glass of Waterville, which is supplying the windows. The general contractor is Scarborough-based Landry / French Construction.

"Our goal from the beginning has been to work with local vendors, contractors and subs whenever possible," said Ureneck. "We've found great partners in central Maine, and the results are really beginning to come together."

Development spurs new jobs

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Waterville’s Main Street is seen from the fourth floor of the under-construction Alfond Commons building. Construction of the building, at 150 Main St. in downtown Waterville, has already had a $14.5 million impact on local businesses working on the project, which began a year ago, the college said.

The college said it expects more than 1,000 jobs to be added to the local economy, spurred by the investment by the college and other private investors have made in downtown.

Besides the Alfond Commons, the college bought five buildings on Main Street. Renovation of the building at 173 Main St. was recently completed and Portland Pie Co. signed a lease on 3,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space in February. A tenant for the remaining 2,500 square feet is in the works, the college has said.

Tech company CGI plans to move into the building from the Hathaway Creative Center this spring, eventually growing from about 50 employees to 200.

"Several hundred jobs have already been created or committed, including high-tech jobs with CGI, new positions at incoming retail establishments on Main Street, and at Colby," the release said.

The college said work on 173 Main St., which had been vacant for years, infused $1 million into the local economy, using local firms for the work, including "everything from demolition and concrete work to windows and flooring."

Alfond Commons, across the street, is slated to open in August, and house more than 200 Colby students, faculty, and staff. The building also will have ground-floor retail and a public community room.

Other downtown projects

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Colby College Director of Commercial Real Estate Paul Ureneck leads Vice President of Communications Ruth Jackson and Vice President of Planning Brian Clark down a hallway of the under-construction Alfond Commons building in February. Construction of the building, at 150 Main St. in downtown Waterville, has already had a $14.5 million impact on local businesses working on the project, which began a year ago, the college said.

The college also bought the long-vacant Levine's department store building, at the other end of Main Street. The building was torn down, and plans are to build a 42-room hotel on the site. College development officials haven't settled on plans for a block of four buildings across the street at 10-14 Main St.

The college announced last month that it is partnering with arts nonprofit Waterville Creates! to turn the building it owns at 93 Main St. into an arts hub, at a cost of $18 million to $20 million.

Colby also bought the former Elks lodge on Appleton Street, across from the back entrance of 173 Main St., and tore it down, using the site as a parking lot.

Colby stated its investments have spurred commercial activity downtown, including reinvestment in downtown buildings, the creation of new apartments and several new shops and restaurants.

"People are increasingly choosing to live in Waterville, with Waterville's population rising to its highest level since 1997," it said. "The residential real estate market in Waterville, long lagging, has started to show the effects of these economic booster shots, with single-family home sales on the increase and the price of those homes on the rise."

The number of homes sold in the city of more than 16,000 increased almost 30% between 2016 and 2017, with an average price increase of almost 10%.

The college cited a Mainebiz story on the housing statistics, in which Don Plourde, owner of Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate said of the hot housing market, "A lot of it has to do with what's going on downtown."

Read more

Colby College to develop Waterville hotel itself

Waterville arts hub renovation gets $2 million boost from Colby benefactor

Waterville's hot single-family home market isn't cooling down

Colby, Waterville Creates! collaborate on downtown arts building renovation

Unifying 'town' and 'gown': Colby College President David A. Greene spearheads $65M investment effort

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