WATERVILLE — Colby College is under contract to buy another vacant building in downtown Waterville, the third Main Street building the college has bought this year in an effort to help revitalize the city and spur economic development.

The planned purchase of vacant 16-20 Main St., at the south end of Main Street next to Silver Street Tavern, comes on the heels of July’s purchase of the former Levine’s building across the street at 9 Main St. and the Hains building at 173 Main St., a few blocks north.

All three have long been vacant and have fallen into disrepair.

The news comes as Waterville businessman Patrick Casey said he’s hoping to find a tenant for the former John Martin’s Manor building on College Avenue, another vacant building falling apart in the city center.

Colby’s latest Main Street purchase formerly housed INK-4-LIFE, a tattoo shop, and Top Dog Wireless on the first floor and apartments on upper floors. The building burned in May 2013, making it uninhabitable. Before that, the building formerly housed Waterville Hardware.

The college’s plans for the four-story brick building at 16-20 Main St. weren’t available Friday, though college spokeswoman Ruth Jackson confirmed the building is under contract.

The news was met with great enthusiasm Friday by city officials and Charlie Giguere, who owns neighboring property.

“I’m extremely pleased to see Colby’s continued efforts to revitalize important areas of downtown Waterville,” Mayor Nick Isgro said. “This is excellent news for all of the citizens of Waterville as we continue to work with our partners toward Waterville’s renaissance.”

Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, said Friday that Colby’s latest plan is great news for downtown.

Buildings at the lower end of Main Street are a gateway to the city from the south, and any occupancy and use of those buildings will give the downtown a lift, she said.

Once the purchase of 16-20 Main St. is closed, Colby will own both vacant buildings at the south end of Main Street. The Levine’s building across the street has been vacant for several years.

COLLEGE EFFORT

While details as to what Colby plans to do with the 16-20 Main St. building were not available Friday, when Colby officials announced in July that the college had bought the Hains and Levine’s buildings, they said it was part of an effort to help revitalize the city’s historic center, build on the arts and cultural assets and spur economic development.

Despite the college’s tax-free status, the Hains and Levine’s buildings would be on the city’s tax rolls, they said.

Colby President David A. Greene has met with city officials, business leaders, downtown organizations and community advocates to identify what the city needs and spoke about possibilities for the downtown area including new retailers, residential space and a hotel.

Olsen and Isgro were part of the special committee that met with Greene over several months.

Olsen said the members of the committee have been working for almost a year “to identify what would really take Waterville to the next level and make it sing.”

“So I’m glad that Colby is in a position to leverage resources in this direction,” she said.

She predicted that more exploration will take place to identify specific uses for the building.

“I think we’ll see more in the coming months that the community will have opportunities for input,” she said.

Giguere, who owns 28 Main St., just north of the building, as well as 2 Silver St., which houses Silver Street Tavern, offices and apartments, is thrilled with Colby’s plan to buy the empty building.

He recently renovated 28 Main St. to include upscale apartments on three floors.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” Giguere said. “This is a godsend for Waterville, because who else would have stepped up to the plate?”

He added that the college’s attempts to help spur a Waterville renaissance also benefit Colby.

“They’re competing with other colleges — for example, Bowdoin, and Bowdoin borders Brunswick.”

Colby’s campus is as beautiful as Bowdoin’s, Giguere said, but Waterville’s downtown needs revitalization, and that is where Colby’s support will help make a difference.

“They’re looking to make it a showcase, and it’s going to be attractive for the students and it’s great for Waterville,” he said.

The empty former tattoo parlor and pawn shop building is separated from 28 Main St. by an alley, and after the fire in 2013, debris would fly off the building into the alleyway, posing a hazard, according to Giguere.

John Weeks, the most recent owner of 16-20 Main St., did not return messages left on his cellphone and at his workplace Thursday and Friday asking about the status of the building.

Earlier this month, workers, at least one of whom was wearing a protective jumpsuit, were seen inside the building on the first floor, which was scattered with debris.

FORMER MANOR

Colby’s effort is one of several targeting empty city buildings this summer.

The former John Martin’s Manor restaurant at 54 College Ave. is undergoing renovations, and the owner hopes to lease it out to a restaurant or other business.

The building has been mostly empty since the restaurant closed in 2007, though it housed an off-track betting parlor in the basement until last year. Patrick Casey has spent the last year and a half replacing the heating system, removing and replacing the sun room roof and other renovations, he said.

“We’ve put all new ceiling tiles, a lot of painting, a lot of cleaning, new flooring,” Casey said. “I’d like to get one person to lease it, but it’s a big building — 29,000 square feet. It could house a call center, fitness center, banquet hall.”

Casey and his wife, Jean, also own Casey’s Redemption stores at 102 College Ave. in Waterville and 93 Main St. in Fairfield.

Their Fairfield building is divided into three spaces, two of which are leased to Dance Connection and EZ to Use Big Book and one which covers 1,500 square feet and is available for lease.

The Caseys bought the former restaurant on College Avenue from the owners of Ace Tire, who bought it at auction in 2013.

The Caseys are hopeful someone will realize its possibilities.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17