WATERVILLE — Four downtown buildings owned by Colby College, including the landmark Levine’s building, will be torn down in the coming months, the most visible sign yet of sweeping revitalization planned by the city, Colby and downtown businesses.

Also, the former Hains building at 173 Main St. will be renovated and a growing technology firm that moved to the city last year will move into its upper two floors.

“I think it definitely signals a new era for Waterville’s downtown and Waterville in general, where significant improvements are going to be made in the commercial core of the city,” City Manager Mike Roy said Wednesday.

Downtown buildings that will come down to make room for new buildings and parking, besides Levine’s at 9 Main St., are the former Waterville Hardware building and the one next to it at 14-20 Main St., which are across the street from Levine’s at the south end of Main Street. The former Elks building at 13-15 Appleton St. at the other end of downtown also will be torn down, Colby College Director of Communications Kate Carlisle said Wednesday. She said the work is expected to start next month.

There are no specific plans for what will replace the buildings that will be torn down at the south end of Main Street, but Colby is working with potential developers to discuss retail, dining, offices and a hotel as possible uses, Carlisle said.

The former Elks building site on Appleton Street will become a parking lot to handle greater demand as 173 Main St. is redeveloped, Carlisle said. That could include demand from Collaborative Consulting, the technology firm that will move from the Hathaway Creative Center to the upper floors of 173 Main St. The ground level of the building will house retail businesses.

Many people at public meetings about downtown plans aired concerns about parking, and Carlisle said Colby is mindful of the concerns.

Collaborative Consulting will make the move next year, said Paul Ureneck, Colby’s director of commercial real estate.

“These important projects are just the first big steps in restoring Waterville’s historic core,” Ureneck said in a prepared statement. “It’s the foundation for bringing more jobs, shopping, dining and living spaces downtown.”

Carlisle said the historic aspects of 173 Main St. will be preserved during the renovation, making it a “historic anchor on that side of Main Street.”

“We’re excited about 173 Main St., not just because it will create a great place for Collaborative Consulting, but also because it really is a beautiful, historic building,” Carlisle said.

The demolition of all the buildings, particularly at the south end of Main Street, may take more than two months, she said. Colby is working closely with the city to ensure parking and traffic concerns are addressed during demolition.

MAIN STREET REVITALIZATION

Razing the buildings is part of a downtown revitalization project that Colby, city officials and business leaders, including those involved in the arts, have been working on since last year.

The group met over several months to discuss ways to help improve the downtown, draw more people to live and work downtown, enhance the current art and cultural offerings and promote economic development. Colby bought several buildings downtown with plans to partner with investors to develop retail businesses and other entities on the lots. Colby is scheduled to buy the northeast corner of The Concourse downtown for $300,000 and build an apartment complex that would house Colby students and staff members on upper floors and retail businesses on the ground floor. Colby plans to have the dormitory ready for occupancy in 2018.

Roy said Wednesday that the city is close to finalizing the sale of The Concourse property.

He said planned demolition of buildings this summer signals the start of revitalization efforts.

“What is so important about it is, it’ll be a very visible sign of a commitment to revitalization in the downtown area,” Roy said. “At the same time, I think it’s a bittersweet moment because seeing some landmarks —Levine’s, the old Elks club — come down is going to be difficult in some ways. But on the sweet side, it does signal a new era.”

Roy said that although buildings are being torn down, it is with the knowledge and understanding that they will be replaced. Colby officials have cited a boutique hotel downtown as a priority, and they had been exploring the former Levine’s site as a possible location for one.

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro, who was involved in discussions with Colby and others last year and this year, said the work to start next month is real, tangible and exciting.

“It’s wonderful for people to see something happening on a lot of the things that we’ve been talking about for so long,” Isgro said.

Meanwhile, Carlisle said Colby is working with downtown leaders to create and fund a wireless “hot zone” downtown, which would provide free, high-speed Wi-Fi Internet service for businesses as well as people who visit downtown.

She said a report on a traffic study for downtown is expected to be released close to the end of August.

All of the planned work for downtown is aligned with Colby, city and business leaders’ belief that multiple projects at both ends of Main Street need to get moving, according to Carlisle. Colby wants to keep the momentum going with the student apartment complex at the north end of Main Street, a hotel and other development at the south end and a new home for Collaborative Consulting at the former Hains building, she said.

“Along with the terrific private investments already underway, these should have transformative impact on Main Street,” she said. “Infusing both ends of the street with people and energy in the next few years will be a great catalyst for further development.”

COLLABORATIVE MOVES

John Williams, senior vice president of Collaborative Consulting, said that business will move to 173 Main St. as soon as it is ready. The goal is to have 200 people working for the company in four or five years.

“If our growth plans map to our ambitions, we’ll be in need of more space,” Williams said. “We are big believers in Main Street and downtown. We think that creates a great environment for our people.”

Collaborative employees are housed temporarily at the Hathaway Creative Center, Water Street. The first group of workers has been trained and another training session is planned for August.

Williams said he expects that by the end of this year, 30 people will be working at Collaborative.

“We’d love to be in there later next year,” he said of the Hains building. “As soon as they’re ready and as soon as our lease term is satisfied with Hathaway would be our goal.”

He said the number of employees to move into the former Hains building depends on when the building is ready. “By the end of this year, we’ll have somewhere in the middle 30s. By the end of next year, we’d like to be double that, if not triple.”

Collaborative has been happy with the people it has hired, as well as with their skill sets and attitudes, according to Williams.

“The town and the state and all the various organizations continue to be really supportive,” he added.

Bill Mitchell, a downtown businessman who owns GHM Insurance and bought two historic buildings at 14-24 Common Street a year ago as part of the revitalization process, said all the work the city, Colby and the arts and business communities have done over the last several months is now coming to fruition.

“I think it’s a very exciting time for the city of Waterville and the surrounding area,” Mitchell said Wednesday. “It’s really starting to come together now.”

Mitchell recently partnered with the Last Unicorn owners Fred and Amy Ouellette to open The Proper Pig, a new restaurant in one of Mitchell’s buildings on Common Street.

“They’ve done such a good job in pulling together the entire experience, from the decor, the vibe, the menu, beer and wine and drink selection — they’ve nailed it,” Mitchell said of the Ouellettes.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17