WATERVILLE — The Planning Board on Monday voted to postpone until July 1 taking a vote on final plans for a $26 million, 47,692-square-foot hotel on Main Street proposed by Colby College.

Most of the discussion centered around parking and whether there would be enough spaces to accommodate people who might gather in a small meeting room on the first floor of the hotel, an issue that Planning Board member Tom Nale and GHM Insurance Agency owner Bill Mitchell took exception to, arguing that splitting hairs over a handful of parking spaces should not hold up a significant project that will be a huge asset and benefit to the city, generate tax revenue and create 60 jobs.

The hotel plan calls for 79 parking spaces, including six around the hotel itself, 31 in the former Camden National Bank lot off Front Street and 42 that Colby leases from the city in the 60-space city-owned lot on that street.

Planning Board member Mark Champagne’s question about whether there would be adequate parking spaces for people meeting in the small room on the first floor started a lengthy discussion. The meeting room is estimated to accommodate about 16 people.

Planning Board member Bruce White said people using the room likely would be staying in the hotel anyway and would already have designated parking spaces.

“Really, they’re already using parking that’s built in,” he said.

Mitchell, who also owns a restaurant and other businesses and buildings in the city, said he has worked downtown 35 years, has 30 employees and 10,000 customers who visit his business over the course of a year, and no one has ever complained about lack of parking downtown.

“Not once have I ever had a single patron, ever, complain that they couldn’t find a place to park — not once,” Mitchell said. “I strongly encourage you folks to vote unanimously for the approval of this project. I think it’s one of the greatest opportunities in the history of the city of Waterville to advance this project.”

The board voted 5-2 to confirm there is adequate parking for the project, with Champagne and board member Chris Rancourt opposing. The motion to approve was made by Nale and seconded by White.

Besides Nale and White, those approving the parking were members Alek Fortier, Cathy Weeks and Chairman Paul Lussier.

City Engineer Nick Champagne said he had several questions about the project and recommended the board postpone considering approval of the entire hotel project, as the state Department of Transportation has not yet issued its approval. If the DOT requires changes, that could dramatically change the plan, he said. Champagne is the son of board member Mark Champagne.

But Paul Ureneck, director for commercial real estate for Elm City LLC, an affiliate of Colby that is proposing the hotel, said he is confident the DOT will approve it. He said Gorrill Palmer, an engineering firm in South Portland that is considered a traffic expert, did a traffic analysis that showed no issues.

With Ureneck on Monday was Brian Clark, Colby’s vice president of planning; Garvan Donegan, director of planning and economic development for Central Maine Growth Council; and Darrin Stairs, project manager for Woodard & Curran, of Portland. Stairs presented plans for the hotel.

Colby officials announced recently that they hope to break ground next month on the hotel at 9 Main St. and open it in the fall of next year.

A letter from the Sewerage District’s superintendent, John J. Jansen, dated May 17, says the district has sufficient capacity to support the project, and the district will need an engineering estimate for average gallons per day of water anticipated at the hotel. A letter from Water District engineer Jefferson Longfellow, dated May 31, says the district has enough capacity to serve the hotel, and any work and relocation must conform to district standards, which includes relocating a hydrant within the public way and abandoning any unused existing service at the main.

The Lockwood Hotel, to be named for the former Lockwood textile mill complex to its south on Water Street, would have four stories, 53 rooms and a restaurant and a bar for hotel guests as well as the public, according to plans. The hotel would have entrances on both Main and Front streets and include meeting rooms and a fitness center for guests.

Colby and the city having been working together to revitalize the downtown. The hotel brings Colby’s investment downtown to more than $75 million. The total downtown investments, including Colby projects as well as present and planned projects funded by others, is expected to be $100 million, according to officials.

Colby President David A. Greene said the hotel will be a little less than half the size of Colby’s $25.5 million mixed-use residential complex farther north on Main Street — the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons.

Baskervill designed the hotel. That, and the restaurant and bar, would be managed by Charlestowne Hotels. Landry/French Construction Co., which built the Alfond Commons, also will build the hotel. Colby officials say they are committed to working with local vendors and contractors on the project as the college did with the Alfond building, which put $14.5 million directly into the economy through local workers and businesses.

The hotel’s facade would be limestone in keeping with past and present Waterville buildings, including Post Office Square, which is at the northern tip of downtown and houses Mainely Brews.

The restaurant, “Front & Main,” would be full-service and offer a diverse menu with an emphasis on produce from Maine farmers. It would  have entrances from both inside and outside the hotel and will feature glass walls on the ground level and a patio for seasonal use on the north side.

Colby and Waterville Creates! are raising money for an $18 million to $20 million center for art and film at 93 Main St. next to Castonguay Square, near the planned hotel, which will be redesigned as part of downtown revitalization. It will be called the Paul J. Schupf Art Center and will include a living room area.

The hotel would feature a terraced patio and lawn on the south end of the building, where the former Levine’s clothing store was located.

It would be built on the site of the former Crescent Hotel, previously the site of the Lockwood House, which opened in 1880, and its patrons were overnight passengers of the narrow gauge railway. The building owner was Reuben W. Dunn, an 1868 Colby graduate who became a Colby trustee.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.