WATERVILLE — The Planning Board on Monday got its first look at an informal pre-application for a Colby College student residential complex to be built on part of The Concourse downtown.

Paul Ureneck, director of commercial real estate for both Colby and Elm City LLC, an affiliate of Colby, said the design for the building at 150 Main St. is in its very early stages and officials are thinking right now that it will be five stories, but that is not yet confirmed.

It would house about 200 students and will have four- and six-bedroom apartments for students that will include full kitchens and common living areas. There will also be two-bedroom apartments for faculty and one-bedroom units for resident assistants. The first floor of the building would be for retail uses not yet identified. The building itself would have about 212 rooms, according to Ureneck.

He said officials hope to break ground on the project this spring and have it ready for student occupancy in the fall of 2018.

“So, big picture, we need to move very, very fast on this to make that happen,” Ureneck said.

He said the design work is expected to be completed in July, and construction is expected to take about a year. Students living in the building will have an option of cooking their own food or going to the Colby campus to eat. A shuttle will be available for them to travel to and from campus. He said officials hope the majority of students use the shuttle, and those with vehicles will park on the Appleton Street lot that Colby owns and where the former Elks building was demolished.

About 20 people turned out for Monday’s meeting. Several said they are enthusiastic about Colby’s plans but worry about elderly people and parents with children not having places to park when they go to the Waterville Public Library and other places.

Cindy Jacobs, president of the library’s board of trustees, said she wants to see the residential complex built and hopes Colby students will volunteer at the library. She suggested the Colby students park at Head of Falls, a large city-owned lot near the Kennebec River off Front Street.

A traffic study funded by the city, state Department of Transportation and Colby has determined that the downtown has plenty of parking. City Manager Michael Roy and City Engineer Greg Brown said a committee will be formed to put together a parking management plan. Roy said a parking management strategy, noted in the traffic study documents, will not be the magic solution. The strategy will mean some people will pay for parking, there will be more enforcement of parking rules and some people will have to walk to parking areas.

“I think we need to provide more new parking, too, so I hope it’s part of the strategy,” Roy said.

Brown said he needs a Planning Board member to be on the panel, which will work with Colby on parking issues. The City Council and other entities such as Waterville Main Street will take part as well. Part of the panel’s work will be making sure everyone understands the traffic study documents.

“We have a challenge ahead of us, folks,” Brown said, adding that Ureneck offered to connect Brown with a man who has been working on parking in Portland for many years.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and Colby rightfully wants a permit in short order,” Brown said of the proposed residential complex.

Like Jacobs, resident Patricia Vashon said she worries about having adequate parking for those who use the library with a big chunk of The Concourse turned into a residential complex.

“We need the parking, and with that parking area gone, I can’t imagine where people are going to park if they want to do downtown, they want to go to the library,” Vashon said.

The City Council last year voted to sell the northeast part of The Concourse to Colby for $300,000 for the residential complex. The sale has not yet occurred, but the council on Tuesday is scheduled to discuss in executive session a tax increment financing agreement for the first-floor retail part of the project and then take the first of two votes needed to complete the sale and the TIF agreement, according to Roy.

Roy said the upper residential floors of the building would not be taxable, because the college is tax-exempt, but the TIF agreement would include money to the city in lieu of taxes. The council is expected to take a second final vote on the sale and the TIF agreement Feb. 21, he said.

City Planner Ann Beverage said the board on March 6 is expected to consider a preliminary plan for the residential complex under the city’s site plan review ordinance. The board also could consider a final plan that evening, depending on whether members feel Colby has provided adequate information and has satisfied any concerns the board may have, she said.

Colby officials at that meeting will need to bring letters of approval for the project from City Engineer Greg Brown, Fire Chief David LaFountain, Jefferson Longfellow of Kennebec Water District and John Jansen of Waterville Sewerage District.

The architect for the residential complex is Ayers Saint Gross, of Baltimore, Maryland, and the construction manager is Landry/French Construction Co., of Scarborough.

The students living in the complex will be part of a civic-engagement, community-service curriculum that requires them to be involved in city activities. Many Colby students already are involved in community service and work with organizations such as the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter and the South End Teen Center.

With Ureneck Monday were Brian Clark, Colby’s vice president of planning, and Owens McCullough, a civil engineer for Sebago Technics.

At Monday’s meeting, Planning Board member Paul Lussier was unanimously elected chairman, filling a vacancy created when Nick Champagne was elected to the City Council. Lussier is a former code enforcement officer for Waterville and Oakland.

The board welcomed new members Lauren LePage and Thomas Nale, both children of former mayors — Paul LePage, who now is Maine governor, and Thomas Nale. Lauren LePage is in her final year of law school. Thomas Nale is an attorney, as is his father.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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