The Elm on College Avenue in Waterville is shown in June 2019, when owner Bill Mitchell announced that the building would become an events center. Mitchell has now decided to close the venue and is in talks to repurpose the space so that a business can move there. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel file

WATERVILLE — The Elm on College Avenue has closed as an events center but the owner is drafting plans to lease the first floor to a local business that would have 50 employees there.

“I’m saddened to see The Elm close but central Maine has so many great options for events and live music,” building owner Bill Mitchell said Thursday.

Mitchell said he could not disclose the name of the business, but he expects a lease to be signed within the next couple of weeks, at which time it will likely become public. The City Council chambers and First Congregational United Church of Christ would continue leasing space on the building’s ground floor, which also houses the church’s necessities closet.

“There are no changes there,” Mitchell said of the ground floor space. “We are only closing The Elm so that a major employer can locate their business on the first floor of 21 College Ave.”

The Emmett Harrity Jazz Quartet performs in September 2019 at the opening of The Elm on College Avenue in Waterville. Owner Bill Mitchell has decided to close the venue and is in talks to repurpose the space so that a business can relocate there. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Mitchell bought the 11,000-square-foot building in 2017 and did significant renovations to it. It formerly housed the Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post 5. The Elm opened in September 2019 and hosted a variety of events, including comedy shows, live music and banquets, but temporarily closed in March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

About a year later, as other venues began cautiously reopening, The Elm did the same, but because of the circumstances and apprehension around COVID-19, operating it was challenging, according to Mitchell. Around that time, the business that Mitchell is now in talks with was looking for a large space to lease so as to keep the business in Waterville, and Mitchell and the employer started talking about a lease for the first floor.


“As the discussions have gotten more serious, I made the decision to close The Elm to allow this business to relocate there,” Mitchell said.

A lifelong Waterville resident and businessman who owns GHM Insurance Agency on Main Street downtown, Mitchell has been involved in real estate development in the city for the last 22 years. He owns buildings on Common Street downtown that house offices and retail businesses and is part owner of The Proper Pig restaurant on that street. He also owns Penny Hill Park, a business park off Kennedy Memorial Drive, as well as other developments on that road. Mitchell was part of a group of business and city leaders who met with Colby College President David Greene a few years ago to plan for downtown revitalization.

Located next to the U.S. Post Office on College Avenue, The Elm has 160 parking spaces and access from both the avenue and Front Street.

Mitchell has a personal connection to the building, constructed in the 1950s. After World War II, American Legions were built all over the country and were popular gathering and event venues for both veterans and nonveterans. The Legion on College Avenue held many events in the 1950s and 1960s with frequent appearances by the Al Corey Band, a popular band based in Waterville. Mitchell’s father, the late Paul Mitchell, was a Navy veteran and he and his wife often attended dances and other events there.

Mitchell said that while The Elm will no longer host live events, there are a lot of venues in the area for that, including the Waterville Opera House, Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney, Enchanted Gables in Oakland and the Waterville Elks Lodge.

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