CLIFFORD HEBERT, 85, stood on The Concourse in Waterville, leaning on his cane and watching men work on the massive five-story residential complex Colby College is building there.

“I come here every day,” Hebert said. “I was here when they started the foundation. I think they’re doing a marvelous job. I’m amazed what they’re doing. They went fast. They don’t fool around.”

Clifford, of Fairfield, is a master carpenter who worked construction much of his life, so he is particularly interested in this project.

“The first column on the corner,” he said, motioning to the northwest edge of the building, “I was here when they put it up. It was in the afternoon. It was the first piece of steel.”

Hebert, wearing a cap that says “Korean Veteran,” said he was a military police officer.

“I landed in Inchon Dec. 22, 1950. I was there nine months, December to October, 1951. I was born in Caribou. My folks came to Waterville in 1933. I had two sisters and a brother. They’re all gone. I’m the only one left. I have a daughter and two sons, four grandchildren, one great-grandson and a great-granddaughter. That’s it — five generations.”

Hebert remembers when The Concourse was full of houses, and Charles Street ran through it.

Armand Gagnon also remembers. Gagnon, 73, comes to the construction site most days, and lately it has been unseasonably hot at 90 degrees and steamy.

He stood Wednesday by the wire mesh barricade fence on The Concourse, recalling when workers put the foundation in for the $25 million, 100,000-square-foot building, which will house 200 Colby students, faculty and staff come August 2018. The students will be involved in a special curriculum related to community service and civic engagement, and they will be part of the community as well as the college, doing internships and volunteer work in the city.

“It will be nice to see kids downtown,” Gagnon said. “I remember where the old Colby College was. I remember when the old building was still standing. I remember the old railroad station. I remember when College Avenue went from two lanes to four. I was young then. That was the late ’50s. I was only 10 or 12 years old. The city has changed. I think it’s good.”

Gagnon, wearing a baseball cap with a picture of his orange cat, Tiger, on it, said he knows many of the men working on the construction project. He worked construction himself for many years.

On Wednesday, the workers were putting walls up and installing plumbing among other things, he said.

“You got plumbers, electricians, tin knockers. They do duct work, where the air conditioning goes to. I started out in construction back in ’65. Then I worked for John Martin’s Manor in the kitchen. They didn’t want to pay me more money so I went back in construction. I had a good time. They treated me good.”

As the construction machinery rumbled, hammers pounded and police and ambulance sirens blared, Lawrence Audet, 69, of Waterville, sat in a folding chair under a maple tree in Front of Pagoda Express on The Concourse, getting some shade as he watched the workers.

“It’s going fast. It’s going real well,” he said. “I’ve never seen a steel building go up so it’s kind of new to me. I worked on the railroad and I worked in the woods. I’ve done just about everything there is. I worked in the paper mill. The last 20 years, I worked for SAD 49. I drove bus to school, and I did lawns in between, worked in the garage and painted school buses — just about everything and anything to make a living.”

Audet said he lived in Canada until he was about 7 and then moved to Jackman where he grew up. His father worked on the railroad, and Audet later would work for Canadian Pacific Railway.

Standing nearby was Raymond LaPointe, 57, of Waterville, who said he is disabled with a bad back. He also comes to watch the construction most days. When the former Levine’s clothing store building on Main Street was demolished, he watched that nearly every day. Colby plans to build a boutique hotel on that site as part of further downtown revitalization efforts.

“It’s something to do, and it’s really nice to see something new go up,” LaPointe said.

While LaPointe is glad to have young people living downtown, he wonders if they will party and drink too much. Audet tries to allay his concerns.

“I think that’s going to be pretty much under control, the way they talk,” he said. “They’re going to be responsible. I don’t think there are going to be much drinking parties. I would say it’s going to work out good.”

LaPointe said he will be interested to see the workers put elevator machinery in the building.

“I’ve never seen an elevator being installed before. I’m guessing they’ll put it in in pieces. I watched the staircase go in. That was cool. I like how everything goes together like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s all pre-fab.”

The men occasionally talk to a construction worker or supervisor. Gagnon said they are really nice. He and the others are enjoying being outside in late September and feel welcome at the construction site.

“I know the iron workers,” Gagnon said. “I know the supervisor good and the mechanic who works on the crane.”

A pickup drives past and the crane mechanic waves to Gagnon.

“Take care, Armand,” he said.

Gagnon returns the greeting: “Tell your wife I said ‘hi.'”

Like Audet and LaPointe, Gagnon hopes he can tour the building when it’s safe.

“I’m going to try to get in there once they get it all cleaned out,” he said.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 29 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.