WATERVILLE — Colby College President David Greene told the City Council on Tuesday that he expects to see a significant difference in the city’s downtown in three years with more people living there, shopping in stores, eating in restaurants and taking advantage of arts and cultural opportunities in the city.

“In five years, we should see a Main Street that is much more vital,” Greene said, adding that in 10 years, he expects to see a Main Street that is self-sustaining and market-oriented.

“That, to me, would be the best outcome on all of this,” he said.

Greene addressed councilors and the public Tuesday about the partnership among Colby, city officials, businesses, Main Street organizations and other downtown advocates to help rejuvenate downtown, build on the arts and draw more businesses, families and others to the city.

Greene met with about 20 people from the city, businesses and organizations over the last several months to help identify what the city needs to help spur economic growth. They determined there’s a need to renovate derelict buildings, connect downtown to Hathaway Creative Center on Water Street and the waterfront at Head of Falls, create more retail businesses, increase living spaces downtown and improve the physical environment to foster long-term growth.

Greene successfully led an economic development-focused effort to revitalize areas in the south end of Chicago when he was executive vice president at University of Chicago.

Colby recently bought three vacant and deteriorating buildings downtown: the Hains Building at 173 Main St., the former Levine’s clothing store at 9 Main and 16-20 Main, a building that once housed a tattoo parlor and apartments and was damaged by fire. Colby plans to buy more property downtown, but Greene said Sept. 29 that he could not yet reveal where.

Following in Colby’s footsteps, GHM Insurance agency owner Bill Mitchell bought two historic buildings on Common Street and plans to lease the first floor of one to a restaurant and develop offices and art-related spaces. One of the buildings already houses Common Street Arts. On Monday, Mayor Nick Isgro and Holy Cannoli owners Tom and Candace Savinelli announced they will be opening a high-end Italian market in the storefront adjacent to Holy Cannoli that most recently housed Barrels Community Market, which closed in August at 74 Main St. Holy Cannoli is at 72 Main St. in the same building.

City councilors Tuesday expressed gratitude to Greene for his efforts, calling the activity downtown a renaissance.

Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, said she works in the schools and there has been a lot of positive chatter there about the partnership and plans for the downtown. She thanked Greene and Colby for the “shot in the arm.”

“I think you’ve given Waterville a little bit of sunshine that things are going to change,” she said.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, said it was the most exciting time to serve on the council, and everything he talked about in his campaign for office, such as the need for economic development, businesses and growth, is coming true.

The long-term forecast, Mayhew said, is that the city’s tax base will expand and property taxes will decrease. Mayhew also praised Greene and said the city needs to celebrate the new, strengthened relationship with Colby.

“I think this is just a major renaissance ready to happen with this partnership,” he said.

Greene said when talks first started about ways to help revitalize downtown, he and others discussed doing it in a way that would have a broad effect, be focused and meaningful and effect positive change.

“I’ve always believed that great cities have great downtowns,” he said. “They have a strong core.”

Colby and the city are seeking investors and developers to partner with the effort to renovate old buildings and/or build others. Colby is looking at developing an apartment complex for Colby students and housing for faculty as well. Students living in the apartments would be part of a program in which they would contribute to the city by volunteering at soup kitchens or at social service agencies, tutoring children and the like. Colby students have long done so in the city as part of the Colby Cares About Kids and other programs.

Colby also is looking to create a boutique-type hotel downtown.

Greene said people need to find ways to help support small businesses.

“We think the jobs issue is extremely important for the long-term growth of Waterville, and we’re hoping to support those initiatives as well,” he said.

Isgro thanked Greene on behalf of the city and said it has been an “incredible partnership.”

“I hope to see just continued engagement,” Isgro said.

Like Greene, Isgro said success will require input and investments from many people.

“As we go forward, this is going to be an all-hands-on effort, so please stay engaged,” Isgro said.

Greene received applause from the council, city officials, business people and others who packed the council chambers Tuesday.

At the end of the meeting, after Greene had left the council chambers, Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, asked to waive cloture to consider approving a food license for a cafe in the Colby College Museum of Art. The council approved the food license.

Greene had said earlier that more than 50,000 people visited the museum last year, and the city needs those people to stay, shop and dine in the city as well.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17