WATERVILLE — Inadequate parking and signs on Silver Street downtown and poor traffic flow because of one-way streets were some of the issues raised Monday at a meeting seeking input on downtown revitalization.

About 25 people, including downtown residents and business people, turned out in council chambers at The Center downtown to air concerns, ask questions and comment on how the downtown can be improved.

The meeting was the fourth in a series of five public meetings to talk about various sections of downtown that have their own specific sets of concerns. The final meeting is at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday in the council chambers and a wrap-up meeting will be held later in May.

City Manager Michael Roy; Brian Clark, assistant to Colby College President David Greene; and Neil Kittredge, a partner in Beyer Blinder Belle, an architectural and planning firm from New York, gave an overview of the work that has been done to date to plan for revitalization. Kittredge and urban designer Michael O’Neil of Beyer Blinder have been working in Waterville more than a year on revitalization work.

Colby purchased five vacant buildings downtown with plans to build a student living complex in the “gap tooth” on Main Street at the northeast corner of The Concourse where urban renewal many years ago razed buildings, creating a gap in the line of structures. The plan is to have about 150 students living in the complex, which would have retail space on the ground floor. Colby also hopes to have a developer create a boutique hotel with 40-50 rooms, a restaurant and conference space downtown, and is looking at the former Levine’s clothing store on the south end of Main Street as a location for the hotel.

Meanwhile, a traffic study of the downtown is being conducted by the state Department of Transportation, as well as Gorrill Palmer, the firm hired to do the study, and city officials. The study is looking at a parking system for the downtown area, as well as possibly returning Main and Front streets to two-way traffic as they were many years ago. Roy said the public is invited to a meeting of the traffic study committee at 7 p.m. Monday in the council chambers.


Kittredge said during urban renewal many years ago the idea was to get motorists through the downtown as quickly as possible and that’s why the streets were made one-way. Now the emphasis is on slowing traffic down, making downtown more accessible and drawing visitors there. With two-way traffic, sidewalks could be widened and made more pedestrian friendly, he said.

The whole idea of revitalization is to draw more people to live and work downtown, support existing businesses, attract more business, enhance arts and culture and spur economic development.

Colby plans to invest millions of dollars in the downtown. Clark, who also is director of planning for Colby, said it is terrific to see activity happening downtown concurrently with Colby and the city’s work. He was referring to the purchase of two historic buildings on Common Street by businessman Bill Mitchell and two buildings purchased on Main Street by Colby alumnus Justin DePre and his father, Thomas, and brother, Tom. Mitchell, as well as Amy and Fred Ouellette, owners of the Last Unicorn, plan to open The Proper Pig, a pub-style restaurant and bar in one of Mitchell’s buildings on Common Street. Collaborative Consulting, a Burlington, Massachusetts, technology company, has moved temporarily into the Hathaway Creative Center on Water Street and plans to create 200 jobs within three to five years. Collaborative may move into the former Hains building, a Colby-owned building at the corner of Appleton and Main streets.

“A vibrant Waterville is essential to the future of Colby,” Clark said.

John Fortier, owner of State Farm Insurance on Silver Street, said he thinks efforts to revitalize downtown are wonderful, and he supports the idea of having two-way traffic on Main and Front streets. A former city councilor whose father was a mayor, Fortier said the revitalization efforts will bring new energy to downtown.

“I encourage two-way traffic,” he said. “I think it adds a warmth and accessibility that has been lacking for 50 years.”


Fortier said he remembers when traffic was two-way, and one of the important things that it does is it eliminates heavy truck traffic downtown.

“I hope the DOT is considering that,” he said.

Fortier said the downtown has enough parking. The problem is, there’s not enough convenient customer parking. He said Silver Street used to have 22 parking spaces and now there are three and business employees park there all day when they should not.

“I have a lot of elderly customers, and they come in on canes and crutches but refuse to park in handicapped spaces because they’re proud — they’re elderly,” he said.

The part of Silver Street that is downtown is one-way. Bruce Fowler, who manages several properties downtown for the Geller Trust, including some on Silver Street, said there are inadequate signs telling motorists going from Silver Street to Main that they can not turn left. He said some of his tenants have asked about the possibility of closing Silver Street off to traffic where the restaurants are located and reworking the traffic pattern so there’s two-way traffic on the other end of Silver Street.

“This would give the restaurants downtown a Burlington-ish walk area,” he said, referring to part of downtown Burlington, Vermont, that is closed to traffic.


Fowler said major work is being done in the area of Silver Street now where old, underground gas, water and sewer mains are located and compromised by roots from a black ash tree.

“If you are going to do work on the streets, just remember there’s very aged infrastructure under there that really needs to be addressed,” Fowler said.

Bob Dennis, whose uncle owned a pool hall on Silver Street many years ago, suggested transporting people downtown from places such as Hathaway and the South End, as well as Elm Plaza in the North End, rather than focusing on having parking everywhere downtown.

“Let’s make a Faneuil Hall out of it,” he said.

Fortier did not think closing the end of Silver Street to traffic was a good idea.

“I don’t want to see it closed off,” he said. “It will affect the accessibility. If you close it off, where is the traffic going to go?”


Kittredge said the waterfront at Head of Falls and connections to and from downtown to Hathaway also are important to revitalization efforts.

Amy Calder — 861-9247


Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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