An electrician with Landry/French Construction works on recessed lighting Tuesday in the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville. Construction work is nearing an end and the center is scheduled to open to the public Dec. 17. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Workers at the $18 million Paul J. Schupf Art Center downtown are in the final weeks of construction with completion expected Dec. 9 and a public opening scheduled for Dec. 17.

The 30,000-square-foot center at 93 Main St., developed by Colby College and Waterville Creates, brings the city’s visual and performing arts offerings under one roof and includes three cinemas as part of The Maine Film Center.

“It’s going to really help to bring and support the creative arts,” said Brian Clark, Colby’s vice president of planning. “It’s going to bring people into the heart of downtown all the time. It’s another reason to come to Main Street, not just to shop or to have dinner or get a drink, but to really have a great cultural experience.”

Clark and Paul Ureneck, Colby’s director for commercial real estate, led a tour of the center Tuesday with George Sopko, the college’s director of media relations.

Jeff Cochran, a carpenter with Scarborough-based Landry/French Construction, removes a door Tuesday from Waterville City Hall that led to a skybridge that has since been replaced with a new one that extends to the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Although Waterville Creates’ president and CEO, Shannon Haines, was unable to attend, she said in a phone interview later that she and others can’t wait to move in.

“It’s going to be, I think, a huge moment for Waterville and for the community that has supported the arts for decades,” Haines said.


The 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 Ed Harris Box Office, just inside the front entrance on Main Street, will offer tickets to all visual and performing arts events, including those at the Waterville Opera House, Maine Film Center and galleries. A giant glass curtain wall on the first and second floors faces Castonguay Square to the south. Bixby Chocolates, in that space, will feature sweets, pastries and fresh roasted coffee, including espresso. Visitors may sit at tables or in a mini-living room overlooking the square. The area is called The Hub, a work and gathering space named for Colby alumnus Mark Hubbert who donated to the effort.

Jason Sheckley, with Connecticut-based New England Theatre Service, sets a movie screen in one of the theaters Tuesday at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“There’s free, public Wi-Fi throughout the entire building,” Ureneck said.

Glassed-in spaces on the ground floor include the Ticonic Gallery and Studios, classrooms and a clay studio with eight pottery wheels and two kilns that members of the Clay Studio may access 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It brings producers and creators of art into the public sphere,” Clark said. “Waterville Creates is all about arts experiences for all.”

Three small, medium and large cinemas on the second level will seat 24, 46 and 120 patrons, respectively, and the small theater may be rented out for home-theater events, children’s birthday parties and the like, according to Clark.


A concessions stand, cafe tables and a lounge also are on the second level, as well as a glass wall overlooking Main Street and a skywalk leading to an expanded Waterville Opera House lobby. A mural by Tessa O’Brien, a visiting artist with the Lunder Institute for American Art who works in the Greene Block + Studios across Main Street from the Lockwood Hotel, will be featured on one large wall.

Studio 1902, a flexible space designed to be rehearsal space for the Opera House, also is on the second level and is sized to the main Opera House stage. The studio will include a mirror and bar along the wall and a “sprung” floor for dance and theatrical productions.

Paul Ureneck, director of commercial real estate at Colby College, at far right, leads U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, second from right, across the newly constructed skybridge Tuesday that will connect the Paul J. Schupf Art Center to City Hall in downtown Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Also prominently situated in the building is the Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art, considered a Colby College Museum of Art expansion onto Main Street. The gallery has all separate mechanical systems, including air handling, for housing high-end art.

“Bringing the museum down to Main Street is huge,” Clark said. “It’s going to make it accessible in a way it never has been.”

The Waterville Creates offices, including for the Maine Film Center, Opera House and Ticonic Gallery and Studios, are on the basement level. Electrical, sprinkler, IT and other mechanical spaces also are located in the basement.

Waterville Creates owned The Center building which was previously on the site. Colby and Waterville Creates raised the $18 million needed for the Schupf Center, and Elm City 93 LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Colby, will operate, maintain and pay taxes on the building, according to Ureneck.


Colby, one of the top five taxpayers in the city, also pays taxes on the other buildings it has constructed downtown, including the Lockwood Hotel, Greene Block + Studios, Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons and the former Waterville Savings Building at 173 Main St. The hotel itself generates $300,000 annually in property taxes, not including personal property taxes.

Of some $200 million invested in the downtown over the last few years, Colby’s investments are $85 million, according to Clark. He said Colby’s commitment from the beginning was to purchase and rehabilitate properties and keep them on the tax rolls.

Ureneck, who oversees all of Colby’s construction projects downtown, said work on the Schupf Center is on target.

“Considering COVID, supply issues, labor issues, all in all we did very well,” he said.

The construction started in 2021 by Landry/French Construction of Scarborough following demolition of The Center. After Colby President David Greene arrived in Waterville eight years ago, he held a series of meetings with city officials, arts advocates, business people and others to help identify what the city needed to thrive and succeed. Rehabilitating vacant buildings, drawing more people to live and work downtown, strengthening the arts and supporting the arts and businesses already here were identified as priorities. Colby began buying and rehabilitating buildings and constructing new ones, and others followed suit.

The Schupf Center nears completion as the $11.2 million downtown revitalization also is scheduled to wind up next month. That project includes turning one-way traffic on Main and Front streets to two-way and improving intersections, sidewalks and landscaping to make the downtown safer and more user-friendly.

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