Waterville officials will consider a development plan that would bring more than 60 housing units downtown at the intersection of Front and Temple streets. The project also would include retail space. This view is looking north from the Waterville Opera House and City Hall. The Kennebec River and Head of Falls can be seen at right. The proposed buildings are shown to provide a sense of their form and scale, developers say, and design elements for them still need to be worked out. Rendering courtesy of Todd Alexander

WATERVILLE — Buildings will be demolished near the corner of Front and Temple streets downtown to create 61 units of housing with more possible on a site that’s just over 1.5 acres, according to development plans that city officials will consider in the coming weeks.

Todd Alexander, vice president and partner at Portland-based Renewal Housing Associates LLC, which focuses on affordable, mixed income and workforce housing, is developing the project with Northland Enterprises Inc., a real estate development and management company whose CEO is Josh Benthien.

They plan to build the housing on land they have under contract that now houses Universal Bread, Damon’s Beverage & Redemption, the former Bob-In tavern and Creative Sounds, and a former office building known as the Heath House at 60 Front St. that abuts Appleton Street to the north.

Those buildings would be razed to make way for Head of Falls Village, a complex that would start with two buildings, with space for two more.

A housing project is planned for downtown Waterville along Front Street at the intersection with Temple Street that would result in buildings being razed to make way for construction. Those buildings, shown Wednesday, include the former Bob-In tavern, at left, and Damon’s Beverage & Redemption, at center right. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The property overlooks the Kennebec River, the Two Cent Bridge and the RiverWalk at Head of Falls. The project is scheduled to go before the city’s Planning Board on Feb. 14 for initial informal review. It includes the two buildings and extensive site improvements, according to Alexander. The larger plan allows for the two additional buildings which would be subject to a separate board review.

“We hope to close on the purchase of the properties during the second half of this year,” Alexander wrote Wednesday in an email. “We will then start the first phase of the project, which involves preparing the site for redevelopment. During this phase, we will remove the existing structures, conduct environmental remediation and complete initial utility infrastructure work.”


He cautioned that it is a complex project and the schedule could be impacted by various factors, including market conditions, financing and permitting.

“This is also an extremely important revitalization project for the downtown — and the entire Waterville community,” Alexander said. “It’s critical that we get this right. So we are not going to push the development along to meet an arbitrary self-imposed deadline, if doing so might compromise the vision and goals we have established for the project.”

The former Bob-In tavern, in foreground, and an adjacent building housing a vintage boutique along with Universal Bread would be demolished as part of a development project in downtown Waterville that would bring more than 60 housing units to a block of Front Street extending from Temple Street north to Appleton Street. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

One building would be 35,000 square feet, with 17,000 square feet of office space. It would be five stories high and include 16 residential units, according to Alexander. The other building would also be five stories and have 45 residential units. It would be a total of 50,000 square feet and have roughly 7,000 square feet of retail space.

“We started our due diligence by meeting with local officials and stakeholders,” Alexander said. “We consistently heard that there is a desire to add more market rate and ‘workforce’ housing options downtown. Based on that feedback, we set an internal goal to have the residential mix be 75% market rate and 25% workforce. We define a workforce housing unit as housing that is affordable to households with incomes between 60% and 120% of the area median income for Kennebec County. Today, that ranges from roughly $34,000 to $96,000, depending on household size.”

A mix of public and private funding sources would be used and developers plan to apply for funding through federal or state agencies, such as MaineHousing, the Department of Economic & Community Development and the Department of Environmental Protection, according to Alexander.

Alexander grew up in Waterville, graduated from Waterville High School in 1988 and then from Colby College in 1992. His professional background is in developing and financing housing projects in underserved communities through public-private partnerships, he said.


“I’ve really enjoyed watching the recent downtown revitalization efforts come to fruition,” he said. “The partnership among the city, Colby, the business community and not-for-profit sector is an incredible asset. While the Head of Falls Village concept is ambitious and will be very challenging to complete, it strikes me that Waterville may be one of the few places where a redevelopment effort like this can succeed.”

Mayor Jay Coelho said the project is a fantastic idea that will alter the downtown for the better. He said he got a look at the project and a 3D rendering at a lunch recently with the developer and Gov. Janet Mills.

“The walking streets and multiple buildings, the architecture is not like anything else we currently have. This project is recreating that entire block,” Coelho said, adding that the housing is needed.

“I wish the developers well and the city will be here to help make it happen anyway we can,” he said. “There is hope in Waterville. We should keep that momentum. This project is just one of the pieces the city so desperately needs.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story