WATERVILLE — Although work inside the $18 million Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville is not yet visible to the public, it should be a matter of weeks before windows are installed, revealing rooms inside that will house art, cinema and teaching areas and a cafe.

Workers from Landry/French Construction of Scarborough have been framing interior spaces and readying the building at 93 Main St. with conduit for electricity, plumbing, mechanical equipment and insulation.

“We’re going through the framing and roughing process now,” Brian Clark, vice president of planning for Colby College, said Thursday.

A worker travels along a walkway Thursday connecting the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, left, with the Waterville Opera House in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Clark said the building, for which Colby and Waterville Creates have raised the full $18 million, is on schedule to open in early December.

City Manager Steve Daly said Thursday the city is looking forward to the building’s completion and the activity it will bring to downtown. Daly, whose office at City Hall is a stone’s throw from the center, said work has progressed through the winter, with gradual changes to the exterior and considerable activity inside.

“With the bridge to the Opera House in place now for several months, anticipation for what’s to come is building,” Daly said, referring to the new skywalk connecting the center with City Hall. “The Schupf Center will be the new centerpiece of the downtown, complementing Castonguay Square, Common Street and our historic City Hall, and will add another gateway to the Waterville Opera House, the jewel of the city.”

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Paul Ureneck, Colby’s director for commercial real estate, has been overseeing the college’s downtown construction, and working closely with Landry/French during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic, when labor shortages and delivery delays for materials have been common for many projects in the area.

A worker moves through the walkway Thursday connecting the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, left, with the Waterville Opera House in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Clark said the Schupf Center project has been moving along five days a week and sometimes on weekends, using local labor and materials.

“We’ve had no real labor issues, no work stoppage due to COVID and other challenges,” he said. “They’ve been doing a great job.”

The 29,932-square-foot center is named for Paul J. Schupf, an art collector and longtime Colby benefactor who lived in Hamilton, New York, and died in 2019 at 82. Schupf, also an emeritus trustee of the college,  gave a naming gift for the center, the amount of which he asked not be revealed.

The center is designed to be a hub and destination place for the visual and performing arts, arts education and film for people of all ages. Colby and Waterville Creates, a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes art and culture in Waterville, worked together on the project.

The center is to feature an all-glass wall 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 at the building and the Waterville Opera House.

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

Clark said the three cinemas will likely move to the top floor about the middle of November or first part of December. The windows across the front of the building facing Main Street will be the cinema lobby, where people waiting to see films can look out over downtown. The curtain of glass on the south side of the building, facing Castonguay Square, will also provide that transparency.

“It’s really going to bring light and vibrancy to the street,” Clark said.

The brick facade on the Main Street side of the building is expected to l start going up this spring, he said.

Mayor Jay Coelho said Thursday he thinks the center is coming along nicely.

“Honestly, they have worked much faster than I had anticipated,” he said. “It will be nice to see some of those projects come to fruition. I am excited for what’s happening in the city.”

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Kimberly Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber eagerly awaits completion of the Schupf Center, which she expects will be an economic driver for downtown events and activity.

“It will be fantastic to have the lights on again in that spot abutting Castonguay Square and City Hall,” said Lindlof, who is also executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council.

More than $200 million in investments are being made downtown, including projects Colby has completed, such as the $25 million Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, $26 million Lockwood Hotel, $6 million Arts Collaborative and $5 million former Waterville Savings Bank renovation.

The city’s $11.2 million downtown BUILD project is to be completed late this year and change Front and Main streets from one-way traffic to two-way, improve intersections and sidewalks and include new landscaping.

The work has prompted some business owners to buy and invest in downtown buildings.

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