WATERVILLE — The Center at 93 Main St. downtown soon will start to take on a new look as Waterville Creates! begins transforming it into an arts hub including a gallery and artist, clay and recording studios.

A major change is that Common Street Arts, at 16 Common St., will move by July 1 to The Center, with various functions such as the clay studio having their own designated spaces in the building, according to Nate Rudy, Waterville Creates! executive director.

The Forum Room, on The Center’s first floor, will become a gallery, he said. The room formerly was used by the community Group REM and was rented out for parties, meetings and other events. Rudy said the plan is to have it double as community space. Common Street Arts’ entrance to The Center will be off Castonguay Square.

“That will hopefully create some opportunities for animating the park,” Rudy said.

All of the planned changes at The Center, a landmark downtown building that is connected to City Hall and the Waterville Opera House, comes amid downtown revitalization efforts spearheaded by Colby College and the city. Those plans could include a boutique hotel, a student and staff apartment building and a mix of offices and retail shops.

REM is moving its office on the first floor of The Center to the basement, in the former Women’s Initiative space. Women’s Initiative moved recently to the Temple Academy complex on West River Road.

Waterville Creates! is a nonprofit corporation that promotes arts and culture with a specific focus on providing marketing for the Waterville Opera House, the Maine Film Center, Waterville Maine Street, Waterville Public Library and the Colby College Museum of Art.

Waterville Creates! owns The Center, which was acquired in 1996 by the Waterville Regional Arts & Community Center. The name was shortened to The Center for easier use. The arts and community center began doing business as Waterville Creates! in 2014.

The Waterville Creates! office on the second floor of The Center will move this summer to the REM office on the first floor. The former REM kitchen, also on the first floor, will be transformed into a clay studio, according to Rudy.

The former REM lounge, overlooking Main St., will become a children’s art studio; the window overlooking Main Street at the south end of the building, where a miniature winter village has been exhibited annually, will display paintings; and a window around the corner from it on Castonguay Square will display sculpture, Rudy said.

Other functions will remain at The Center, including the Maine Made & More shop and WABI TV 5 on the first floor; the Kennebec Club in the basement; the Community Dental Center, the Waterville Opera House office, the City Council chamber, planning, code enforcement and city engineer offices on the third floor, and Parsifal Corp., a relocation, auditing, technology and consulting firm, on the fourth floor.

Rudy said artist studio space is available for rent in the basement. The recording studio would be developed in the Out & Allied Youth Theatre space on the first floor and may be a listening studio where musicians record music with an audience and the performance is broadcast in the style of “A Prairie Home Companion,” he said.

Waterville Creates! plans to meet with artists, art educators, social service providers, city officials and others in the coming weeks to discuss The Center and its role as a community center. His nonprofit organization is looking at ways to make the building efficient and self-sustaining through arts-related activities.

Rudy held a meeting this week for tenants in The Center to notify them of the upcoming changes.

Faye Nicholson, co-executive director of REM, said the changes are necessary and should be embraced.

REM has been in the building 21 years but decided to move to the basement after the rental rates increased for REM spaces. Nicholson said she understands that had to happen for the building to be self-sustaining.

“Change is necessary for success and growth,” she said. “They had to raise the rent — no choice. They had to make it on its own.”

Meanwhile, REM is sending out a survey asking people what they want to see in a community center, which Nicholson hopes to have built at Head of Falls in the future with help from the public. She said she envisions a large building with a porch all around its perimeter that would be built in the barn-raising style with many hands pitching in to complete it in a minimal amount of time. She said REM, the Kennebec Club, a seniors college and other offices could be based there and the building would be available for rent for special events.

She said REM plans to stay in the basement of The Center two years and then hopes to build a community center.

REM has 68 partners, including the Kotlas Sister City Connection and Mid-Maine Global Forum, and they are based at REM and use the conference room on the second floor of The Center for meetings, she said.

Having a community center would reduce costs for REM in the long run, she said.

“It costs us $3,500 for two days to rent space at Champions (Fitness) for the annual craft fair,” she said. “We need to have a space that we can use for events like that.”

Mark Fairman, executive director of Out & Allied Youth Theatre, also attended the tenants meeting. Fairman said it makes sense to have arts-related activities in one space.

“I think it’s great to have everything more concentrated in one building,” he said. “I’m very excited about the vision of 93 Main St. becoming a hub for the arts, especially for children and youth.

Rudy told tenants that it is important for youths to be comfortable downtown. People on the sidewalk will be able to see them working in the youth art studio in the former REM lounge, he said.

“The idea is to have children of all ages using the downtown — not because they’re coming specifically to shop or eat at a restaurant, but as a space they inhabit as part of their lives,” he said.

Waterville Creates! has a board of directors including representatives from Waterville Public Library, Waterville Main Street, the Maine Film Center, Colby College, Colby College Museum of Art, Thomas College, Inland Hospital, MaineGeneral Medical Center, the Waterville Opera House, REM, Common Street Arts and Jobs for Maine Graduates. Tom McCowan, a local lawyer, also is on the board.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17