Kimberly Lindlof, left, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, and Waterville City Planner Ann Beverage talk Thursday at an event at the Spectrum Generations Muskie Community Center to discuss what Waterville residents want for the downtown area. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — City officials, residents and urban planners gathered recently for the third in a series of sessions to imagine and plan for what the downtown area needs beyond the most recent improvements.

Dozens of people dropped in at various times Thursday at Spectrum Generations Muskie Community Center at 38 Gold St., where displays were set up showing ideas residents and others have generated over the past several weeks.

“Tonight is basically reflecting back on all of the ideas that people came up with in the meetings,” said Neil Kittredge, partner and director of planning and urban design at Beyer Blinder Belle, an architectural and planning firm headquartered in New York City.

Eight years ago, Kittredge helped start the revitalization process for residents, city officials and Colby College leaders, who envisioned and saw to fruition the downtown improvements developed over the past few years.

Those changes have included moving from one-way to two-way traffic on Main and Front streets; construction of the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, Greene Block + Studios and Lockwood Hotel; new retail businesses at ground-level storefronts; and other changes.

Along with Kittredge and others from Beyer Blinder Belle, representatives of BFJ Planning and Mitchell & Associates, who were at talks eight years ago and have continued to work with the city, were on hand Thursday.


A primary concern voiced by many residents is for Head of Falls along the Kennebec River to remain a green space and not be developed for housing or commercial uses. Residents also said they want to see more activity there at various times of the year, and possible recreation space, to help increase safety in the area.

Improving pedestrian access from downtown to Head of Falls is also important, and that could be accomplished by improving Temple Street, making its sidewalks wider and adding lighting, signs and crosswalks, residents have suggested.

An art walk starting under the skywalk at the Schupf Center near Castonguay Square and continuing toward Head of Falls has also been pitched.

Other ideas the public has offered include: Building a parking garage at The Concourse, which now serves as a large parking area, and using the space that would open up there up for housing; making the temporary one-way traffic change on Appleton Street, near the Waterville Public Library, permanent, and redesigning that street with landscaping and a better pedestrian walkway from the library to Main Street; and creating a business improvement district committee composed of landlords and businesspeople who would oversee parking and other initiatives.

Georges Jacquemart, principal at BFJ Planning of New York City, has also been part of the planning process since 2015 and is considered an expert in parking issues. He said as new development comes to the downtown area, there will be need for parking management because parking is critical.

“It is an important resource for businesses and economic well-being, and that means it has to be managed,” Jacquemart said.


Faye Nicholson, co-director of the community group Revitalizing the Energy in Maine (REM), said she has long advocated for having a downtown community center for people to socialize and that could serve as a warming and cooling center. Such a facility could also house the Aqua City Actors Theatre, which lost its space when The Center was torn down on Main Street, according to Nicholson.

She said a community kitchen at the center, where people could hold family funerals or other gatherings and would be able to cook for receptions, would be important. REM could help run a community center and rent the rooms, she said.

Paula Raymond, a member of the South End Neighborhood Association and Waterville Housing Committee, said improving pedestrian access between the South End and downtown is also necessary.

“It’s going to take money, an influx of investments,” she said.

Raymond described the new downtown improvements as beautiful, and said a focus is now needed on filling empty spaces on the ground and upper floors of downtown buildings.

“We’ve got the art galleries, we’ve got the theater, we’ve got the restaurants,” Raymond said. “We need the retail. That’s what’s going to bring people downtown.”


City Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green said councilors began soliciting input from residents many months ago. During recent sessions, ideas have been generated in four areas: open space and walkability; parking and transportation; community needs, such as housing; and business and economic development.

“We’ve had a good turnout — between 40 and 60 people per event,” Green said.

In May, a presentation is planned that is to include all of the ideas that have been submitted. Discussions are then expected on what improvements could be implemented, including how they would be funded, according to Green.

Paul Ureneck, Colby’s director of commercial real estate, said he finds it encouraging to see a diverse group sitting at a table and discussing how to make Waterville a better city.

“What makes me happy about this is how much interest the community has taken in this second round of discussions regarding the future of the downtown,” Ureneck said. “All of these sessions have been so well-attended by a diverse group of the community. We’ve had junior high school students, high school students, business owners, social service agencies, the elderly.”

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