WATERVILLE — Colby College may now buy a 0.77-acre site on The Concourse to build a dormitory for about 150 students and staff and faculty members, since the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the $300,000 sale.

The vote followed speeches by several business people who urged councilors to support the sale, which would pave the way for new taxable property downtown, more people living and working there and opportunities for new retail businesses. Now is the time to take that chance, since investors are interested in doing business here, they said. No one spoke in opposition to the sale.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that we seize this opportunity right now,” said Hathaway Creative Center developer Paul Boghossian.

Boghossian invested more than $30 million in the Hathaway project despite the fact that it was in an untested market, he said. Now there are more than 500 people living and working in his building. If the city takes a timid path and telegraphs to the world that it is not sure about what it is doing, it will endure many more years of mediocrity, Boghossian warned.

“I can tell you as a developer that delay kills deals,” he said, adding that there is momentum in the city that must be embraced.

“We have the opportunity to make a significant difference in the trajectory of this city. I urge you to approve this measure,” he said.


John Dalton, president and chief executive officer of Inland Hospital, concurred.

A vote to sell the land to Colby will result in attracting jobs, creating and retaining good jobs and supporting the children of the community, Dalton said.

“I urge you to vote ‘yes’ and proceed with selling the land,” he said.

Colby has bought five buildings downtown with plans to partner with investors to redevelop them. College President David Greene said Tuesday that when the city and Colby began the process of planning for downtown revitalization, Colby officials never envisioned it as Colby’s project but as a partnership to spur growth in the city.

“Should you pass this tonight, you can be assured that Colby will be an outstanding partner with you in working on this project,” Greene said.

Mayor Nick Isgro said the city is excited to have him as a partner.


“The city is so lucky to have Colby College as a partner, and we look forward to all the work before us,” Isgro said.

At the recommendation of City Solicitor Bill Lee, councilors voted to amend the order for the land sale by adding a condition that, if the property for any reason becomes partly or wholly tax-exempt, the owner of the property will make payments in lieu of taxes to the city, due and enforceable in the same manner as real property taxes. The requirement, according to the amendment, is a “condition running with the land.”

The council on Feb. 2 took a first vote to approve the sale. Two votes were needed. With one councilor, Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, absent from Tuesday’s meeting, councilors voted 6-0 to approve the amendment and sale, after which the council chambers erupted in applause.

Outside the council chambers after the vote, Greene said he was extremely pleased about the council’s vote.

“More than anything, I feel a sense of obligation,” Greene said. “This is the beginning; it’s not the end. It’s hardly time for celebration; it’s time to get to work and to partner in a way that really supports the needs of the city. For me, if there’s anything in all this, it’s that sense that we have to do the right thing. We have to be a great partner, and if we do that, the outcomes will be extraordinary for the city of Waterville.”

While Colby now owns five buildings and expects to build the dormitory, it doesn’t plan to own those properties in the long run.


Colby spokeswoman Ruth Jackson said earlier Tuesday that Colby hopes to be a catalyst for redevelopment and that eventually the growth on Main Street will be self-sustaining.

“The college’s goal is not to own large parts of Main Street long-term, but we do expect to work to ensure the long-term viability of the projects,” she said. “The five properties Colby has purchased, which were on the tax rolls before Colby purchased them, will remain on the rolls and ultimately, we expect, generate more tax revenue for the city.”

She reiterated that the apartment complex, or dormitory, on The Concourse space will include taxable retail on the first floor, which will introduce new revenue for the city.

State and city officials, as well as Greene and others, were successful in drawing Collaborative Consulting, an Internet technology business to Waterville that expects to employ around 200 people within three to five years.

Collaborative Consulting, based in Burlington, Massachusetts, has been exploring locations in downtown Waterville for its business. The Hathaway Creative Center is a high probability, but that is not yet cast in stone, according to John Williams, the company’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer.

Williams said earlier Tuesday that Collaborative Consulting has hired five people, and the company is temporarily working in space at Kennebec Valley Community College’s annex in Fairfield. By the end of the month, the company will have hired a total of 15 people, according to Williams.


“KVCC has been generous enough to let us use classrooms for training, which will start Feb. 29,” he said.

Bill Mitchell, owner of GHM Insurance Agency downtown, also spoke Tuesday in favor of the city’s selling the land to Colby.

He said now is an exciting time in the city, and when the opportunity presents itself, the city has to be ready for it.

“We have to be ready to move, here and now,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell, who served on a panel Greene headed last summer to discuss what the city needs for revitalization, bought two historic buildings on Common Street and is renovating them. Also in the audience Tuesday night were members of the DePre family, who bought and are renovating two buildings on Main Street.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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