WATERVILLE — A longtime landlord who has renovated many buildings in the city’s North End says he bought the former John Martin’s Manor building on College Avenue and plans to demolish it to create housing, if Waterville rezones that area of the avenue.

Arthur Turmelle attended the Planning Board meeting Tuesday night, at which the board later voted unanimously to recommend the City Council rezone part of College Avenue to allow apartments to help meet the demand for housing in the city.

The Planning Board does not have authority to rezone properties — only the City Council has that power — but the board can make a recommendation.

The council recently asked the Planning Board to consider making a zoning recommendation on that part of College Avenue.

The request the council will consider is whether to rezone all but two properties abutting the west side of College Avenue, from the south side of Maple Street to Broadway Street, to allow apartments. Excluded in the request are 110 College Ave., the site of Brown House Commons, an apartment complex that is in a contract zone, and 68 College Ave., where a marijuana store is scheduled to open.

The zoning change request came from the city’s housing committee, which was formed earlier this year to address what officials say is a housing crisis in Waterville. Officials say there is not enough affordable housing stock in the city and what is available is often too costly for people looking to move to the area.


Turmelle told the board he is a lifelong resident of Waterville and for 35 years has provided housing in the city. He said he would be coming before the board in the future and has three housing projects planned.

“We have aspirations of helping the city with their shortage,” he said. “We’re hoping that we can help.”

The plan would require the zoning change, according to Turmelle.

“We’re certainly at the mercy of these changes,” he said. “I’ll have a nice package at some point, so we’re working on that as we speak.”

In 2015, Turmelle and his family were given a Spirit of America Award for their efforts in renovating buildings in the North End, providing housing and making improvements to the neighborhood. At the time, they owned more than 50 buildings.

The 30,000-square-foot John Martin’s Manor building at 54 College Ave. closed in 2007 after a 30-year run. It had been owned by Peter Martin, who grew up in the business with his father, John, who opened it in 1977.


The restaurant, which employed 70 people, seated 300 patrons for dining, 400 for banquets and 200 in the lounge. Peter Martin sold the restaurant to Autote Enterprises of New Haven, Connecticut, which closed the restaurant because it was losing money.

The building continued as a banquet center that catered special functions, and in 2010, Sportech bought Autotote. An off-track betting parlor in the basement continued to operate until 2012, when it moved to Jefferson Street. The building changed hands after that, and in 2015 was leased to a business that tried to operate a steak house in the basement and a banquet center and consignment shop on the main floor, but the business closed within two years.

City Planner Ann Beverage said earlier this week the state is looking at ways to encourage cities to allow more housing. Some communities have zoning ordinances that do not allow as much housing, she said. The city’s housing committee is looking for ways to increase housing in Waterville, and the strip of College Avenue is mixed-use, with a fair amount of residential, Beverage said.

The committee is also looking at other areas of the city for possible rezoning, Beverage said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Planning Board member Bruce White thanked Turmelle for his efforts.

“I appreciate you coming,” White said. “We’ve had a couple discussions and we know you have some good longevity in the city and the North End. You’ve done a really good job of keeping things up.”


“Wonderful,” Turmelle said. “Thank you for noticing.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Jay Coelho said he plans to turn the building that houses Grub, his eatery at 144 College Ave., into apartments. There are now apartments on the building’s second floor, but Coelho said he plans to put two on the first floor.

“At some point,” he said, “we plan to put another building behind our building and this doesn’t preclude us, so I’m in favor (of rezoning).”

Planning Board Chairwoman Samantha Burdick made a motion to recommend the City Council rezone that area of College Avenue. White seconded her motion.

“It makes sense to me, and it sounds like the Housing Committee is in favor of it,” Burdick said before the vote.

In other matters, the Planning Board decided to wait to vote on whether to recommend the council adopt adaptive reuse and demolition delay ordinances and create a historic preservation committee.

The board voted 6-1, however, to delete language in the proposed permit delay ordinance and adaptive reuse ordinance that says buildings “constructed prior to 1930” would be subject to those ordinances.

White was the lone dissenter, saying later he wanted to get more input from City Solicitor William A. Lee III and Code Enforcement Director Dan Bradstreet because he was not sure deleting the proposed language addresses their concerns.

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