WATERVILLE — Some features in Castonguay Square should be kept in the park: the big, old elm tree, for instance, and the horse watering trough, both of which have been there for many years.

Some features should go, including an information kiosk at Main Street that not only blocks the view of the square, but also hinders access to it.

Those were some of the opinions residents, business owners and others offered Wednesday night at a public workshop to help redesign Castonguay Square in the heart of downtown.

The workshop, hosted by Waterville Creates!, Colby College and the city, comes amid efforts by Waterville Creates! and Colby to raise $18 million to $20 million to transform The Center next to the square into a hub for art and film.

About 25 people turned out at Wednesday’s workshop, held on the first floor of The Center at 93 Main St.

A second workshop will be held at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Chace Community Forum in the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons at 150 Main St.

Waterville Creates! earlier this year was awarded a $75,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town program to work with the city, Colby and other entities to help redesign Castonguay Square through a community process that includes public workshops.

“We really want as many voices as possible in this process,” Shannon Haines, president and chief executive officer of Waterville Creates!, said Wednesday.

Two teams of architects joined Waterville Creates!, Colby and city officials in hosting the workshop: Bob Metcalf and Julia Frederick; landscape architects from Mitchell & Associates, of Portland; and Neil Kittredge and Rayna Erlich, architects from Beyer Blindle Belle, of New York.

Kittredge talked about the history of the square, which was last revamped in 1986. At that time, a street that ran from Front Street to Main Street in front of City Hall was removed and a pedestrian promenade was created there, Kittredge said.

The square is used for all sorts of activities, including the farmers market, the annual food event the Taste of Waterville, the holiday festival Kringleville, Waterville Rocks! concerts, weddings and more.

Kittredge showed slides of various parks in places such as Boston, Chicago and Montreal where temporary interactive exhibits are installed, including a giant treehouse that wraps around a tree and in which children play, outdoor games for children and adults, a large tree with lights connected to bicycles that people may ride and when they do, the tree lights go on.

Kittredge asked participants to split into three groups to talk about what features they want to remain in the square and what features they want to see removed, and to answer questions about what the square means to them and their neighbors, how they think it can play a bigger role for the community, and if they could add anything to the square, what would that be?

City Manager Michael Roy was in a group of four people that included Patricia King, vice president of Waterville Creates!; Al Hodsdon, owner of A.E. Hodsdon Engineers, on Common Street next to the square; and Lisa Hallee, who with Roy is co-chairman of the River Walk Advisory Committee. Metcalf served as facilitator.

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Roy said he wants to see the big elm tree, which he named “Ellie,” remain in the square; King and Hallee said they would like to see the kiosk at Main Street removed.

“It’s like a barrier,” King said. “I like the trees, but the whole thing doesn’t invite you in — it keeps you out.”

Hallee and Roy were for removing the horse trough in the square.

“I like that horse trough,” Hodsdon countered. “The one common thing here besides Ellie is the horse trough.”

Hodsdon was referring to something Kittredge said when he showed historical photos of the square throughout the years — that the horse trough was in all of the photos.

Roy asked Hodsdon what it would take to convince him to support a pedestrian-only way where Common Street is now.

Hodsdon said closing off the street to all traffic all the time would hurt businesses, but he said he thinks it is acceptable to do so during some temporary activities.

“It’s probably not prudent to close it to traffic, but for certain events, it makes a lot of sense,” he said.

Members of a group that included Haines; Shadow Distribution owners Ken Eisen and his wife, Karen Young; and Children’s Book Cellar owner Ellen Richmond agreed that the old elm should stay. They talked about how the east end of the square is dark because it gets little sunlight, and people don’t tend to spend time there. People in Roy’s group said two maple trees at that end should be taken down.

Several people agreed that the old cannon at the east end of the square should be removed, as it does not have particular historical significance to Waterville.

Hallee and King agreed that the square should include more opportunities for children to play.

“You know what would be fun?” Hallee said. “A holiday pop-up retail festival.”

Roy said he thought the square should have areas for reading and picnicking, and large, performance-type activities should be held at other venues, including possibly Head of Falls. Hodsdon liked the idea of having few permanent features in the square.

“I think the thing is to perhaps have the least number of fixed objects so you can vary what you do there every year,” he said.

The architects from Beyer Blinder Belle and Mitchell & Associates visited the city in September, toured Castonguay Square and the RiverWalk at Head of Falls, which was designed by Mitchell & Associates, and met with downtown business and property owners, city employees and those who use the square.

Officials Wednesday encouraged participants to invite others to attend the Nov. 14 workshop, at which attendees will draw concepts for the square onto maps, using principles and ideas developed at Wednesday’s session. Three potential options for the square’s redesign will be developed. Central to the work will be discussions about features in the current square that should be protected, relocated, redesigned or removed.

The architects will develop preliminary design concepts following the two workshops with an eye toward presenting them to the community for feedback at a final workshop in January. A final design is expected to be presented to the City Council in February.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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