WATERVILLE — A boutique hotel planned for the former Levine’s site downtown as part of revitalization efforts probably will not be built until next spring, and the two buildings across the street will not be torn down until a plan is in place for the site.

Those were just two of many updates gleaned from a walking tour of downtown Wednesday led by Paul Ureneck, director of commercial real estate for Elm City LLC, an affiliate of Colby College, which is investing $45 million to $50 million into downtown projects.

About 20 people took the tour, which was part of a special exhibit, “Picturing Waterville,” being hosted by Waterville Creates! based in The Center downtown. Another walking tour is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. June 28 and is open to the public.

Waterville Creates! marketing manager Nate Towne met the tour group at Common Street Arts on the first floor of The Center, where the photo exhibit “Elm City” is on display. The exhibit includes historical photos of the city on loan from the Waterville Historical Society, as well as contemporary photos by acclaimed photographer and Colby associate professor of art Gary Green.

Towne pointed out photos of places Ureneck would discuss on the tour, including the site of a $25 million Colby College residential complex being built at 150 Main St., where more than 50 years ago buildings were demolished to make way for urban renewal and construction of The Concourse. One photo shows Main Street when it had two-way traffic, a change that is being considered for downtown.

“You’ll be seeing the old Hains building in living color,” Towne said of a building at 173 Main St. that Colby is renovating.


Ureneck led the group to the former Levine’s clothing store at 9 Main St., where the hotel will be built. Ureneck, who oversees Colby revitalization projects downtown, said he took Colby alumni on the same tour a year ago, and they told stories of store owners Pacy and Ludy Levine.

“I was amazed — the people who had graduated from Colby back in the 1950s, early ’60s — the stories that they were telling me of the Colby Corner with the sweaters and all of that,” he said. “Needless to say, it was bittersweet when this building came down. There were so many memories people had, and wonderful memories.”

Ureneck said a man in his 70s on that tour a year ago told of buying Bass Weejuns at Levine’s when he was just out of Colby College and he still wears the shoes, though the soles have been replaced many times over the years.

The building was beyond repair and had to come down, according to Ureneck. Officials still are determining the architectural design for the hotel, which will have 42 rooms, a 45-seat restaurant, a bar that will seat about 15 people and a small exercise room, but no pool.

“There’s still a lot of thought being put into the architecture of this building,” Ureneck said.

Thought also is being put into exactly what to put on the lot across the street, which includes the former Waterville Hardware building and a building next to it that housed various uses, including a tattoo shop and apartments. Rather than tear the buildings down and put a fence around the lot now, officials decided to wait until a plan is in place for the site, according to Ureneck. Housing is a possible use, he said.


“It’s all about revitalizing the downtown, and how do you revive it?” Ureneck said. “A key part of it is getting people to actually live downtown.”

He said he had demolition permits for the buildings but decided to wait. “We’re not going to do anything until we have a plan for that site,” he said. “I’d rather look at a vacant building than at a vacant lot.”

The group walked north on Main Street to Berry’s Stationers and stood as Ureneck pointed out work going on across the street at 150 Main St., where the residential complex for 200 students and staff and faculty members will live after it opens in August 2018.

A whooshing sound was coming from the former Hains building nearby.

“That sound is of removing old paint off granite and brick,” Ureneck said. “I’m trying to restore that building to its original appearance.”

The Hains building, built in 1902 for Waterville Savings Bank, has a vault in it that had not been opened since the late 1930s until recently, when a locksmith from Connecticut was hired to do the job after others were unable to open it.


Ureneck said the man worked for three hours and then opened it, using two suitcases of tools, the likes of which Ureneck had never seen.

There was nothing in the safe, but Ureneck said the brass gears inside were like those inside a watch, and were housed behind glass.

“What an architectural beauty it is,” he said.

Former Maine Gov. Joshua Chamberlain was the first officer of the bank. Bank records going back to the 1860s signed by Chamberlain were found in the basement of the building. Chamberlain, a college professor, also was a brigadier general in the Union Army and fought at Gettysburg.

CGI Group, a technology company, will lease the upper floors of the Hains building after renovations are completed this summer. Colby will have administrative offices on the second floor and two retail uses will be on the first floor, Ureneck said.

About 9,000 square feet of the first floor of the residential complex will be for retail, use and the northeast corner of the building will be a meeting space for not only Colby, but also nonprofit groups and others in the community, he said.


The students in the complex will be involved in a special civic engagement and community service program in which they will work with social service agencies, volunteer organizations and other entities as part of their studies.

Ureneck said that are making a concerted effort to use local workers as much as possible for construction projects. In four or five weeks, people can expect to see steel going up for the residential complex, he said. Officials are trying to be as conscientious as possible when it comes to traffic disruption, which is expected to come to an end in a week or a week and a half, since work to install water and sewer has been winding down, according to Ureneck. The part of Temple Street by The Concourse has been blocked off to do that work.

“I hope sometime in the week of the 23rd, but definitely before the end of the month, to have Temple Street with pavement on it and people driving both ways,” he said.

Meanwhile, Central Maine Power Co. is planning to install a transformer vault in the middle of Appleton Street.

“We’re working with CMP so they do not do that work until we have Temple Street back open,” he said.

Janet White, of Waterville, asked if there was a plan to put a public restroom on the first floor of the residential complex, or if it was too late to consider doing that. Ureneck said he understands the need for a restroom the public can use but thinks it would be difficult to put one in the building because of a focus on student security there.


W. Elery Keene, of Winslow, said after the tour that he opposes putting up a building at 150 Main St. because it obstructs the view of businesses, on The Concourse and people walking on Main Street will not be able to see them. But he enjoyed the walking tour, he said.

“I thought it was very interesting,” said Keene, who has master’s degrees in civil engineering and urban and regional planning.

Keene was executive director of the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, formerly the North Kennebec Regional Planning Commission, from 1970 to 2001; and his first office was in the Hains building, he said.

“Using it for office space for CGI sounds like a good idea and putting some of the Colby College personnel in there is OK,” he said.

Ureneck said people may watch live-stream video of the residential complex construction 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at watervillepartnership.org People may also email him ([email protected]) with questions and concerns.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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