WATERVILLE — A large, historic building near the heart of downtown that has been vacant nearly 20 years is expected to draw new interest from potential developers looking for property as downtown revitalization efforts progress.

The former Waterville Boys & Girls Club building at 6 Main Place, originally built in 1930 as Colby College’s Alumnae Building, stands between Main Street and College Avenue like an old tomb, boarded up and silent, surrounded by businesses and apartments that draw a constant flow of traffic and activity.

The brick building is on 1.2 acres and contains nearly 40,000 square feet, a size that is in demand from companies wanting to develop entities such as a brewery or a manufacturing business.

Yet the structure, marked by graffiti and broken windows on the second floor, has housed virtually no activity since the Waterville Boys & Girls Club, its last owner, moved out of it in 1999 to a new facility on North Street.

The property has changed hands a couple of times since then and at one time was on the market. It now is owned by Northern Ventures, LLC, of Saco, which bought it in 2006, according to City Assessor Paul Castonguay. Castonguay said the assessed value of the building is $74,400 and the land, $57,100, for a total value of $131,500.

The city’s tax collector, Linda Cote, says the annual taxes on the property are $3,067 and up to date.

“Payments are made timely, so there’s no overdue payments on it,” she said.

The agent for the property is Bergen & Parkinson, LLC, on Main Street in Saco, which, according to the firm’s website, has 182 companies with that address. A woman who answered the phone there Monday said the agent for 6 Main Place, Christian Barner, is based in Kennebunk. A woman at that Kennebunk office said Barner was not in the office Monday but would return Tuesday and she would give him a message to call. He had not returned a call as of Thursday.

Meanwhile, city and economic development officials say they would love to see new life infused into the building, if possible.

City Manager Michael Roy said he has never spoken to the property’s owners in his nearly 13 years of working for the city, and he has not been inside the building for a long time, but the city would like to see it improved. He said the question is whether any part of the structure is salvageable and if so, what it could be used for. If it is not salvageable and should be torn down, there’s the question about what could be built in its place, according to Roy.

“Those kinds of uses will depend on the zoning in place and site requirements,” he said, adding that until someone is able to go inside the building, it would be hard to say whether any part of it is usable.

“I’m certainly hopeful something will happen with it,” he said.

City Planner Ann Beverage said the zoning at 6 Main Place is Commercial-A, which allows for every use that currently is downtown.

“Anything you see on Main Street — restaurants, retail, professional offices — they could have apartments,” she said.

Garvan Donegan, economic development specialist for the Central Maine Growth Council, said he attempted twice to contact the property’s owners, as it is gaining interest because of its proximity to downtown, where revitalization is in full swing. He was unable to make contact.

Colby is infusing millions of dollars into downtown as part of revitalization efforts. It is building a $25 million mixed-use, residential complex on Main Street downtown for some 200 Colby students and staff members who will be involved in a civic engagement and community service curriculum. Colby also renovated an historic building across the street which now houses some Colby offices and will be home to the technology company, CGI Group. Both buildings will have retail businesses on their ground floors. Colby also plans to build a 42-room boutique hotel with a restaurant at the southeast end of Main Street this year.

Donegan said the 6 Main Place building also is of interest because of its size and because there is such a lack of such spaces in the region.

The size and the building’s tall ceilings make it attractive, he said, and a business such as a brewery would want high ceilings for tanks.

But like Roy, he said it is difficult to know what the building could be used for until he could tour it. He has spoken to people who know more about it, and it appears it would need work, he said.

“It would need a lot of love. It would need a lot of investment to revitalize that building,” he said.

Like Roy, Donegan said he would love to see something happen with the property and is available to help the owners if they want to talk about it.

“I’d be more than happy to discuss and help them with economic incentives and/or grants, and more than happy to help them navigate any sort of planning and permitting process,” he said.

He cited the fact that Waterville businessman Bill Mitchell bought the former American Legion hall just south of the site off College Avenue, and the Children’s Discovery Museum is scheduled to move from Augusta into that building.

“People are looking at these kinds of large-square-footage facilities and seeing the value,” Donegan said.

The 6 Main Place building could be a valuable asset, he said.

“You can see if it was spruced up, it could be a beautiful building. I”m sure it was in the day.”

STEEPED IN HISTORY

The building at 6 Main Place is between Main Street and College Avenue, tucked behind Dunkin’ Donuts on the College Avenue side and apartment buildings on the Main Street end.

A sign at the entrance of Main Place off Main Street says it is a dead end street, but people can drive through the property from Main Street and end up on College Avenue by going between an office building that originally was Colby College’s Foss Hall and a building that houses the End Zone sports bar.

It is a busy area, located just south of the back side of the Railroad Square complex, near Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts, across College Avenue from the post office.

Foss Hall was built in 1901 as a Colby College women’s dormitory, according to Earl Smith, author, historian and former dean of Colby. That building and the one at 6 Main Place are the only two Colby buildings from the college’s former campus downtown that remain intact, Smith said. Construction started on the Main Place building before Colby decided to move the college, he said. It was built anyway, and Colby announced plans to build a larger gymnasium on the north end of the new Mayflower Hill campus. Smith, author of “Mayflower Hill: A History of Colby College,” who now is writing a history of Waterville, said it was built in 1930 entirely with alumnae gifts. It was called the “Alumnae Building” because women donated money. Colby started moving from downtown to Mayflower Hill in 1930, but the move was not completed until 1952.

The Alumnae Building at 6 Main Place was used mostly as a women’s gymnasium, although other activities took place there, according to Smith.

In 1941 George Averill, a philanthropist and chairman of the Colby board, gave the city $75,000 to buy the Alumnae Building to give it to the Boys Club, which at the time was located on Temple Street, near where Yardgoods Center on The Concourse is now, he said. Temple Street back then stretched from Head of Falls to Elm Street. The Boys Club had been on Temple Street since 1924 after Colby students spearheaded an effort to establish the club, according to Smith. When the club moved to Main Place, its former building on Temple Street became the home of the YMCA.

Like Roy, Donegan and others, Smith said he would love to see the Main Place building addressed.

“I would be delighted if they can find an appropriate use for it, because it’s one of our historic buildings. There’s a lot of history there,” he said.

‘IT WOULD BE A GREAT BUILDING’

Ken Walsh, chief executive officer of the Alfond Youth Center on North Street, remembers when he headed the Boys Club, which later became the Waterville Area Boys and Girls Club. The club sold the 6 Main Place property in May 1999 to a man who owned Dunkin’ Donuts in Waterville at the time, and he later sold the Main Place building to another entity, according to Walsh, who had run the club since 1992.

The building has not only a gymnasium, but also two pools — a regular swimming pool and a therapy pool, Walsh said. An addition was built on the structure in the 1970s when the Boys Club became the Waterville Boys & Girls Club. That addition wrapped around the west side of the building and housed offices and a swimming pool. When the club moved to North Street in 1999, it became the Alfond Youth Center.

Two or three years ago, Walsh toured the old Main Place building with a real estate agent, as he was curious to see what kind of condition it was in, he said.

“It’s not in great shape right now, unfortunately,” Walsh said. “We kept the building, I believe, in really decent condition because the base of it is strong. The brick and mortar was solid.”

He said that before the Boys and Girls Club sold the building, officials investigated the idea of renovating it, and it did not make sense to do so, as it would cost a lot of money. But he said the location is prime and he thinks if it were gutted and redeveloped, it could be for apartments, a brewery or another use.

“There’s a lot of square footage. It’s a big space. I’m not sure what you could utilize the open space for without doing massive renovation. A lot of infrastructure would have to be taken care of.”

The gymnasium is on the second floor in the older part of the building, and four rooms off that gymnasium were renovated in the 1990s, according to Walsh. When he walked through the building two or three years ago, there was a lot of broken glass and places in the walls where holes had been punched through, so it was clear there had been vandalism, he said.

In warmer months, motorcyclists and others often congregate around a picnic table outdoors in the shade on the north side of the building at various times of the day to lunch and socialize. The spot is close to where Dunkin’ Donuts patrons enter the drive-thru.

On March 25, 2009, Waterville police were called to the building because young people had gotten inside and thrown Molotov cocktails into the swimming pool. The youths were charged with arson.

Deputy Chief Bill Bonney, of the Waterville police, said Tuesday that for a while police would get complaints about the building, but that has not occurred in more than a year because the owners secured it tightly.

Garth Collins, who retired in December as the city’s code enforcement officer but now works part time in that office to help with the transition, said he has received no complaints about the building and the city makes sure the owners keep it secured. Someone also mows the lawn during the warm months, he said.

“When Northern Ventures bought it in 2006, they were going to renovate it into commercial or living space when they had down time, and they never ended up doing anything with it,” Collins said.

He said he thinks the building is structurally sound and could be gutted and redeveloped.

“For anybody that had the money that could invest in it, it would be a great building,” he said.

Walsh agrees.

“I think the positive side is the location,” he said. “It’s upper Main Street, near downtown. If the right investor comes in, there’s the choice of tearing down the building and starting new or using parts of the building.”

Walsh said Waterville’s “renaissance” is exciting, and he would be thrilled to see 6 Main Place become a part of that.

“Instead of it just sitting there and collecting dust and deteriorating, I think it’s best for the community; and I just hope a developer is willing to work with city officials and individuals to make something with it, because I think it’s a prime location — no question about it.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17