Traffic on Front Street in Waterville earlier this month passes equipment being used for road work that’s part of the $11.2 million revitalization of downtown. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — The multimillion-dollar facelift to downtown is about $85,000 over budget, but city officials say they expect to realize savings next year that will equalize the cost.

“I’m pleased with the quality of the work,” City Engineer Andrew McPherson said. “It’s very good. It’s a little behind schedule, but that’s typical on construction projects.”

Crooker Construction Inc. of Topsham is doing the road construction as part of the $11.2 million downtown revitalization project expected to be completed on time, in November, according to McPherson. The city, Colby College and the Maine Department of Transportation are partnering on the project, which will include changing the traffic pattern on Main and Front streets downtown from one way to two way toward the end of next year.

The road work by Crooker represents about $9.5 million of the project.

As part of the work, intersections are being improved and realigned. Main Street is planned to have new concrete sidewalks, granite curbs, 5-foot brick strips between the sidewalks and street where trees will be planted, and new street lights. The project includes a $7.3 million BUILD grant the city received from the federal Department of Transportation.

The islands at Spring, Front, Main and Water streets were removed in March, and a new intersection is planned that will allow traffic to maneuver through streets more smoothly, according to plans. Traffic lights also were installed there.


Waterville Public Works Director Matt Skehan acknowledged that plowing snow in that area will be a bit different due to the intersection change.

“Our highway superintendent, Karl Morse, and members of the crew have met at the intersection and have a good plan for maintaining this area this winter,” Skehan said. “As with all the new construction, there will be a learning curve.”

Workers are installing underground drainage and electrical work for lights where Front and Colby streets intersect with College Avenue. Crews are putting in some of the sub-base gravel to get a jump on work to continue next year, according to McPherson.

“That’s part of the intersection that will take (U.S.) Route 201 traffic and make it go down Front Street,” he said.

A base layer of pavement was laid on Main Street and when the project is completed next year it will be paved again, he said. Front Street also will be paved. Main Street downtown is six inches narrower as a result of construction and the street will have only parallel parking, according to McPherson. He said by June or July people will probably see the brick work completed along the Main Street sidewalks, trees planted on the brick area and new streetlights installed.

“There are a lot of moving parts and pieces on rebuilding an old, historic downtown,” he said.


As the work progresses, so does construction on the $18 million Paul J. Schupf Art Center on Main Street downtown that is scheduled to open late next year.

According to Colby College officials, excavation has been completed and basic infrastructure is in place. Utilities, including water, sewer and power, have been connected to the site, all of the foundation work is complete and the structural steel erected.

Traffic passes the Waterville Police Department on Dec. 16 near where equipment is kept for a road project next to Colby Street in downtown Waterville. The work is part of the overall $11.2 million revitalization plan for downtown. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

In the next six months, workers plan to complete a temporary enclosure of the building, which is 95% weathertight. There’s a little more to do, including temporarily enclosing the walkway between the center and the adjacent Waterville Opera House, officials said. Concrete will be poured on the main floor by the end of January and the foundation will be backfilled.

“Once the building is enclosed and the concrete floor is in place on the first floor, interior work will begin, including framing, sheetrocking and installing mechanicals and electrical,” a Colby official said. “Roofing is scheduled to start toward the end of April, and toward the end of May the glass wall will start to be installed. In May-June, the temporary enclosing will be removed as permanent enclosure begins.”

The center will feature an all-glass front facing Castonguay Square and include the Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art, Ticonic Gallery and Studios, and the Ed Harris Box Office, which will serve all programs in the building, as well as the Opera House.

The Opera House will be accessible to the art center via a skywalk. Three cinemas on the second floor will replace those currently at Railroad Square and will be the focal point for the Maine Film Center and the Maine International Film Festival.

Colby College and Waterville Creates raised money for the center.

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