WATERVILLE — Before we can build the future, we must reclaim the past.

That is the case at the site of a future $25 million Colby College residential-retail complex on Main Street downtown, where workers using heavy equipment are digging up foundations of old buildings demolished as part of urban renewal decades ago — foundations filled with brick and then buried.

“The amount of old masonry debris was a lot more than what was anticipated,” said Paul Ureneck, who is overseeing the Colby projects downtown. “That has caused us to excavate all of those soils, because they will not provide a sufficient bearing pressure for our new foundations.”

Workers are processing those soils through a crusher, and the soils will be returned and brought back up to grade so a new foundation can be built.

“In order for us to get that bearing pressure we need to build the building, we need to process the soils to aggregate size — aggregate means ‘stone’ — within the gravel,” Ureneck said. “We then work with a testing agency to make sure that those new materials we’re putting back in the ground are of proper composition and can be compacted so the new building can be constructed onto it.”

Ureneck, director of commercial real estate for Elm City LLC, an affiliate of Colby, was walking the construction site Wednesday with City Engineer Greg Brown. Landry/French Construction Co., of Scarborough, is the general contractor for the project; and Steven McGee Construction, of West Gardiner, is the site contractor doing excavation and processing.

Things are going well, though with new construction and excavation, any number of surprises can arise, according to Brown and Ureneck.

“As we go through this process, every day we learn things, find things underground and I work closely with Paul,” Brown said. “Sometimes we have to make changes on the fly for the benefit of everyone who uses these streets. The plan that we had yesterday may need revision today, so we communicate daily.”

The city is in the midst of downtown revitalization efforts driven by Colby’s investment of more than $45 million to build the residential complex, renovate the former Hains building across the street and build a boutique hotel at the end of Main Street. Hotel construction has not yet started. The residential complex will house about 200 students and faculty and staff members involved in a special civic engagement curriculum and is expected to open in the summer of 2018.

Ureneck said an old water main ran through the site and had to be relocated onto Appleton Street and that work had been ongoing for the past few weeks. The job was completed earlier this week, a week ahead of schedule, he said.

Ureneck, Brown and the contractors meet every Tuesday morning and review a traffic management plan, all work in progress and possible adjustments that need to be made. Ureneck then overlays the traffic plan onto a Google Earth photo and posts that on emails he sends out to the public. Communication is important as construction continues, they said. Ureneck said people wanting to get regular updates on the work may go to the website www.watervillepartnership.org; click on “residential-retail complex,” for instance; then enter their email addresses, and they will receive updates as they are posted, Ureneck said. The website is in the process of being revised so that it is easier for the public to view those updates. The website link also is available on the city’s website, www.waterville-me.gov.

STREET CLOSINGS, WATER SHUTOFF

The public can expect some temporary street closings and a Main Street water main shutoff in the near future.

On Friday, for instance, Appleton Street from Main Street to the TD Bank drive-thru exit will be closed for the day starting at 7 or 8 a.m., as a crane will be parked on Appleton to drop equipment to install air-conditioning on the roof of the Hains building at 173 Main St. While the entrance to the TD Bank drive-thru is off Main Street, its drive-thru exits on Appleton behind the building that houses Selah Tea.

On Friday, vehicles leaving the TD Bank drive-thru on Appleton will be directed east on Appleton to Front Street and no vehicles will be able to enter Appleton from Front, according to Ureneck and Brown.

“This will just be a one-day thing,” Ureneck said.

Motorists wanting to get to Main Street may use Union or Colby streets, Brown said. A flagger will be at Appleton and Front on Friday to help with traffic flow.

Brown and police Chief Joseph Massey helped work on the traffic plan, as everyone is trying to be as respectful as possible of the residential neighborhood off Appleton and not put excessive traffic through that neighborhood, according to Brown and Ureneck. Appleton had been closed to two-way traffic the past few weeks between Main and Elm streets, but it is now open to two-way, they said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday in front of the Hains building on Main Street, workers were in the ground, removing rock so that water and sewer lines can be connected to the building. Officials initially had planned to connect to lines on Appleton Street, but the lines were too old and corroded, so they will connect to the Main Street lines instead.

To make the connection, the water main on Main Street must be shut down for a time from Post Office Square to Temple Street, and that will occur in the early morning hours of June 5, according to Ureneck. Workers are preparing the site to ensure the minimal amount of time will be needed to do the work.

Ureneck said the water will be closed off at 1 a.m. June 5 on that stretch of Main Street, and he expects it will be turned back on around 8 a.m. that day.

Work on the Hains building by PC Construction Co. of Portland is going well, according to Ureneck. All of the windows have been replaced and steel bars from the former Waterville Savings Bank that are on lower windows were taken off, restored and repainted.

The building will house CGI, a technology firm, on the upper floors, some Colby offices on the second floor and retail on the first floor.

“We’re still scheduled for an August occupancy and opening,” Ureneck said.

Temple Street from Main Street to The Concourse is closed so new utilities and communications lines can be installed at the Colby residential construction site. Temple Street is expected to re-open June 30, according to Ureneck.

“The good news is that once we’re out of here, really for the next year, the great majority of all of our work will be contained within the perimeter of this fence,” he said, referring to the construction fence around the site. “We will really be out of the street.”

Brown said he asked Ureneck to consider doing the work on Temple as quickly as possible before summer starts, and that meant having to close Temple completely at that location rather than keep it partially open.

Ureneck noted that in four to six weeks, Central Maine Power Co. will be doing work on Appleton Street in the area of the Care & Comfort building to install a transformer vault to improve electrical infrastructure downtown. That work by CMP is being done independently and is not associated with Colby’s work, according to Ureneck and Brown.

“The street will be closed while that work is going on, and the time is yet to be defined,” Brown said.

Ureneck added that he and others are working with CMP to help ensure that businesses in that area are affected as little as possible.

Brown and Ureneck noted that on Tuesday, the construction fence and concrete barriers along Main Street will be moved farther out into the street because utility work will occur there. Once the building foundation is completed and steel goes up, lifts will be set up along Main Street inside the concrete barriers to be used during construction of the building. The barriers will remain for about a year, Ureneck said.

Main Street will continue to have two lanes of traffic, he said.

Brown and Ureneck walk the streets every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., working together to ensure work downtown goes as smoothly as possible.

“We’ve been trying to cooperate, to provide a team environment where we can react to changing conditions as quickly as possible, and the only way to do that is to establish an excellent line of communication; and I think we’ve done that,” Brown said.

He said revitalization efforts have been a long time coming, and it’s good to see the work in progress.

“It’s hectic, but it’s satisfying to see this revitalization of downtown Waterville,” he said. “We’ve been talking about it for a while, and now it’s real.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17