WATERVILLE — City officials say they will do everything they can to accommodate businesses as downtown revitalization work progresses, and business and building owners acknowledge that while disruption will occur, the end result will be worth it.

The city, state Department of Transportation and Colby College last week launched an $11.2 million project to change one-way traffic on Front and Main streets to two-way traffic, improve intersections and sidewalks, and landscape downtown. At the same time, Colby and the nonprofit organization Waterville Creates! on Monday started work on an $18 million project to build the Paul J. Schupf Art Center on Main Street.

Former City Manager Michael Roy, who retired in December but is temporarily working for the city part time to help with revitalization, said there are multiple people on the ground representing the city through the construction projects to address any issues businesses may have.

They include city Engineer Andy McPherson; Paul Ureneck, director of commercial real estate for Elm City LLC, an affiliate of Colby, who is overseeing the college’s construction projects; and Rob Clewley, a project resident inspector at Kleinfelder, a firm hired by the city to oversee the BUILD project, named so for a $7.37 million federal grant the city received to do the work. Clewley, based at Kleinfelder’s Augusta office, reports directly to McPherson for the BUILD project.

“We have Andy McPherson — he’s on site, probably every day,” Roy said. “We have Paul Ureneck. He certainly wants to make sure from Colby’s perspective that everyone is happy. Kleinfelder is a construction management firm; we hired them to oversee the construction.”

Roy said he and McPherson will help to resolve any issues that may arise concerning deliveries to businesses downtown.

“I think the city understands that for the downtown businesses and building owners it’s been a struggle with working the last year in the construction district, and this continues,” Roy said Monday. “We appreciate people’s patience, and the goal at the end is worth waiting for.”

Bill Mitchell, owner of GHM Insurance on Main Street, who also bought and redeveloped buildings on Common Street as part of revitalization efforts, said he has had discussions with people about both the BUILD and Schupf Center construction work, and disruption is to be expected.

Two-way traffic on Main Street in Waterville in 1932. Photo courtesy of Dave Brown

“I recommended that the people in charge of overseeing all this do everything possible to minimize that disruption and look for ways to continue to encourage people coming downtown to favor downtown businesses,” Mitchell said.

He said that in talks with the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce he suggested that encouraging people to come downtown during construction is important, as some may be hesitant to do so. It also is important to make sure contractors understand that, first and foremost, it is a downtown and they must respect and be considerate of business owners, employees and patrons who will continue to favor downtown, according to Mitchell.

“Mike Roy was part of the meeting and, as always, was very gracious and very empathetic and absolutely wants to make sure we’re doing everything to minimize disruption and encourage folks to favor our downtown,” he said. “I suggested construction workers be reminded of the importance of wearing masks. I know that’s not a popular thing with everyone, but if we want our community to come to our downtown in the midst of a major construction project, the contractors have to respect that. That’s an issue we need to stay on top of.”

Mitchell also recommended temporary signs be installed downtown to direct people to parking areas.

Beyond that, the construction process itself is exciting and interesting, according to Mitchell, who said people shouldn’t stay away from it.

“The outcome here is to have a beautiful and revitalized downtown that will attract people from all over the state,” he said, adding that they will come for art, cinema, the performing arts, dining, music, holiday events and more.

“When it’s all done, they will come in big waves, I think,” he said.

Workers put away equipment used on the road project at Main and Front streets Tuesday in downtown Waterville. The town of Winslow is in the background. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The Silver Street Tavern at the corner of Main and Silver streets will be open with outdoor dining during construction efforts, but owner Charlie Giguere welcomes the activity.

“I think there may be a few minutes of pain, but it will be well worth the effort,” he said.

Giguere’s restaurant and high-end apartments in the building are situated across the street from Colby’s Lockwood Hotel and adjacent to the Arts Collaborative, both of which were under construction last year and early this year. Giguere has been a champion of the revitalization work and said Ureneck and contractors have been attentive and good to deal with.

“I’m excited about this,” Giguere said. “We’re going to end up with a much better product.”

Crooker Construction Inc. of Topsham last week started work on the intersection at Main, Water, Spring and Front streets, just south of the Lockwood Hotel, and that work is expected to continue. Hired as the contractor for the BUILD work, Crooker also has been removing curbing along Front Street. Project Superintendent Alex Stone said at least one lane of traffic in both directors will be open during construction. The traffic pattern will be changed to two way next year, he said.

Mary Carpinito, owner of Amici’s Cucina restaurant on Main Street, across from Colby’s Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, said Tuesday that Amici’s and OPA, the Greek restaurant next door, hope to have outdoor dining in front of their eateries, despite construction, and the city is working with them on that effort.

Deliveries to Amici’s are done at the back of the building where the restaurant leases a parking lot, so deliveries are not an issue, according to Carpinito.

She said she is excited about the revitalization efforts.

“We’re on board with everything and anything that’s going to make this better for all businesses downtown, and bring more people to this area,” she said.

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