Tom Greenwood sat in his red Jeep on Wednesday, watching the excavators rip and tear at the former Camden National Bank building in downtown Waterville.

Like giant hands, the excavator claws plucked up insulation, wood and other debris and dropped it into dumpsters.

Greenwood, 45, was parked in the city-owned lot on Front Street, which afforded him a front row seat to the activity.

“I like the layers — the brick, concrete and wood,” he said. “That’s a heck of a pile. I don’t really understand how they’re going to move that to make way for the next pile of stuff to come down.”

Colby College bought the former bank building at 33 Main St. last year, and Camden moved to a new mixed-use residential complex Colby built farther north on Main Street.

The college is razing the former bank building to make way for construction of a boutique hotel, partly on that lot and partly on an adjacent lot where the former Levine’s clothing store stood until 2016. Colby demolished that old clothing store, in which Greenwood remembers shopping with his grandparents, Winnie and Basil Trask, of Oakland, when he was a boy.

“I remember going downstairs because it was like a bargain basement thing, and trying on clothes — mostly pants, jeans.”

An only child, Greenwood grew up in Oakland but now lives in Waterville. His parents and grandparents are gone, but he recalled jaunts to Waterville with them when he was young.

He pointed to five trees in the triangular-shaped green space just south of the former Levine’s lot and said he and other kids in Oakland Boy Scout Troop 454 planted them some 30 years ago.

“The trees were just tiny, foot-tall trees,” he said.

Greenwood said he hopes the tall evergreen trees on the Front Street side of the demolition site and another tree on the Main Street side will not be cut down.

“I like there to be as much greenery as possible in town.”

Greenwood seemed a bit wistful as he sat there, ruminating about the past and future. He plans to move soon to Arizona, where the cost of living is lower and it is much warmer and drier, he said, adding that he has been packing and talking to real estate agents in that state.

A 1991 graduate of Messalonskee High School, Greenwood was born in the former Seton Hospital in Waterville and worked in the pre-press department at the Morning Sentinel for about 10 years after graduation, he said. He has spent many years since then working in automotive parts and service and in 2013 earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Husson University. A voracious reader, Greenwood said he particularly likes the works of Henry David Thoreau.

“‘Walden’ is wonderful,” he said. “I really, really enjoy that ‘thinking outside of the box’ mentality.”

He also is a history buff, and that is part of the reason he was mesmerized by the demolition taking place downtown.

“I sort of have an affinity for progress versus nostalgia — like maintaining a level of class and history while progressing at the same time, sort of like Hallowell has done or even Boston, with all of Boston’s history. It’s steeped in history.”

He cited the transformation a few years ago of the old Gerald Hotel in Fairfield into housing.

“I love that. It’s sort of avant-garde classic but with modern amenities.”

An articulate and introspective man, Greenwood said he has seen a lot of changes in the area over the years.

“I think about it a lot. I think that each time a building burns down or suffers some sort of damage and they rebuild it as good or better than before — maintaining that classic flair — that’s a nod to history. That’s what keeps Waterville attractive, hopefully.”

As cars whizzed by on Front Street amid the rumble of the excavators, Greenwood mused on.

“I think I have an optimism about the diversity and safety of the residents of Waterville. I think we’re moving in the right direction. I think that we’re stepping up a little bit. I like to see that. It seems like for a long time — decades — not much changed, and all of a sudden, look at the last five years. The place is changing rapidly.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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