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April 11, 2018

Colby building buy is step forward for Camden National Bank too

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Camden National Bank will occupy ground-floor space in the right-hand corner of Colby College's Alfond Commons building. The bank space is at the right in this photo, viewed from the Concourse parking lot.

WATERVILLE — Colby College's latest downtown Waterville building purchase, its sixth, is another move toward building a 40 to 50-room hotel on Main Street, a process that began three years ago.

Camden National Bank announced earlier this week that Colby will buy its 37,000-square foot building at 33 Main St. The $750,000 deal is expected to close in June.

The bank will move into the college's new building at 150 Main St., which will allow it to upgrade technology in ways the 98-year-old bank building couldn't, officials said Tuesday.

The site Colby is buying is adjacent to the Main Street property the college bought in July 2015. Plans to build a hotel there were announced in early 2016, and the former Levine's department store at 9 Main St. was torn down later than year.

But some issues remained with project, including parking. A year ago, the college talked to the city about leasing spaces in the city-owned lot behind the parcel, on Front Street.

The deal with Camden National includes its parking lot on Front Street, adjacent to the city-owned one.

"We are in the early planning process for the hotel and the Front Street lot will be considered as part of the planning," said Brian Clark, Colby vice-president of planning, Tuesday.

The bank will sub-lease space for an ATM in the 20-space lot, said Renee Smyth, Camden National executive vice president, chief experience and marketing officer.

The city agreed last year to lease to Colby the 42 spaces in its Front Street lot, adjacent to the Camden National lot.

Original plans were for a 42-room hotel and restaurant, but Clark said Tuesday the new property offers new possibilities.

"We have restarted the planning process for the hotel and restaurant for this new site and we will be exploring the size of the hotel as part of this," he said. "The community planning process and our analysis demonstrated that a small hotel with 40 to 50 rooms is the right size, but this is a question we will be exploring as we continue our planning."

A "pocket park" that connects Main Street to Front Street on one side of the bank building is also part of the developing plan. The Proper Pig, a bar and restaurant on Common Street, already has outdoor dining behind its restaurant in the space.

"Having outdoor space for the hotel and restaurant is an attractive possibility and we will be exploring how to best maximize this pocket park for the hotel and restaurant as well as other businesses and the public," Clark said.

Traffic question still in flux

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Colby College plans to build a hotel on the Waterville Main Street space seen in the right of this photo.

Colby also helped pay for a study to determine the impact of returning Main Street and Front Street to two-way traffic. College officials have made it clear two-way traffic on Main Street would be beneficial to their plan. The city and state Department of Transportation also helped fund it. The study determined significant changes to downtown traffic patterns would help revitalize downtown. Cost was estimated at $4.4 million.

Clark said Tuesday that the new site is "about ensuring that a hotel in downtown Waterville achieves the goals identified through the planning process and the revitalization strategy adopted by City Council.

"Having visitors staying in downtown Waterville will benefit local retailers and restaurants, and will contribute to the vibrancy of the street."

But he added that the results of the study show "the broader benefits that would accrue to the full range of businesses downtown through two-way traffic."

Clark said it didn't make sense to renovate the 98-year-old bank building.

"While the building looks relatively intact on the Main Street side and the space where Camden National currently does business is suitable, the reality of that building is more complicated," he said. He said much of the building is unoccupied. "And much of the remainder of the building is not up to code. It does not make financial sense to rehabilitate the building, and the best option at this time seems to be construct a new building on that site."

New digs for Camden National

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Camden National Bank will locate in the far end of the Alfond Commons building, 150 Main St., Waterville.

While the building served the bank well, Smyth said, the bank's customers will be better served with the move to the 100,000-foot mixed-use Bill and Joan Alfond Main Street Commons the college is constructing three blocks away at 150 Main St.

The bank will occupy 3,500 square feet on the Main-Temple street corner of the building.

Smyth said the new location will allow the bank to update technology and modernize. Some 3,875 square feet of retail space is still available, and Clark said the college is "having productive discussions with several additional prospective retail tenants."

Smyth said the move to the new building is also a chance for the bank to connect with the students and faculty who will live in the building's 52 apartments.

Originally built as a bank in 1920, the building at 33 Main St. because Camden National's when it acquired 15 Bank of America branches in 2012.

"It definitely is old," Smyth said. She said it met the needs of customers, but the new space will integrate new technology better. The new space won't have a drive-thru, but will have parking both on Main Street, and the large Concourse parking lot behind the Colby building.

The bank will maintain a smart-functioning ATM in the parking lot space that Colby is acquiring, though the plot will be reconfigured and it won't look the way it does now.

"We want [customers] to have plenty of room to maneuver," she said.

The move, planned for fall, won't involve an interruption in service for customers.

Smyth said the future is exciting, both for the bank and its customers and downtown Waterville in general.

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