I grew up South of Augusta in Hallowell and Waterville, when I was young, was the town you went to to buy things. It had a vibrant downtown and a lot of retail and a lot of traffic. I think that over the past 20 to 25 years, like many downtowns, that has slowly shifted away and moved out to the periphery to other places.
But what we’re seeing now in Waterville is this incredible resurgence, which is the function of many things. Colby’s investment, the town’s longterm planning, and the Chamber of Commerce has played a major role. What it’s done for people like me—those in redevelopment—is it’s attracted us to look to a town that doesn’t just have buildings that can be developed, but to a town that is in favor of going in that direction. It’s looking toward a vision to fulfill. And with all of these players involved—and I haven’t yet mentioned Thomas College, and many others—have come up with a vision of what they hope to see in the town.
Add to this the magic of the aforementioned investment by Colby and you have a real recipe for success.
Waterville is now at an accelerated growth mode because of all of the planning they have done and now there is the realization of capital to accompany that planning. What I think you will see is infill development. So you look at downtown and there are old buildings that will be renovated, but then there will be new buildings that are constructed within that fabric. That will continue and stretch to the peripheries of downtown.
I wrote about this particular moment for the Kennebec Journal a few months back, and my colleague Tom Siegel, who is developing a project for us on the old Seton site in Waterville, also wrote at length about the significance of this moment.
What Waterville has done well is they have planned for this growth. A lot of communities will go through a long planning process but then it comes time to actually grow. Waterville has done that planning and attract investment and so now the growth is occurring. So I think in 5 years, you’re going to see changes in traffic patterns, how people live, how people get to work and everything that comes with development as it exits the planning phase and enters one of growth. It will have a remarkable impact on the community at large.