An $18 million arts center, the cornerstone of downtown Waterville’s revival, takes shape

WATERVILLE – Although work inside the $18 million Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville is not yet on view to the public, it is expected to take a few weeks before the windows are installed , revealing rooms within that will house art, film and education spaces and a cafe.

Landry/French Construction workers in Scarborough framed the interior spaces and prepped the building at 93 Main Street with conduit for electrical, plumbing, mechanical equipment and insulation.

“We’re going through the scoping and drafting process now,” Colby College vice president of planning Brian Clark said Thursday.

A worker moves Thursday along a walkway connecting the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, left, to the Waterville Opera House in downtown Waterville. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Watch

Clark said the building, for which Colby and Waterville Creates raised the full $18 million, is set to open in early December.

City Manager Steve Daly said Thursday the city looks forward to the building’s completion and the activity it will bring to downtown. Daly, whose office at City Hall is a stone’s throw from the center, said work had progressed throughout the winter, with gradual changes outside and considerable activity inside.

“With the bridge to the Opera House in place for several months, the anticipation of what is to come is building,” Daly said, referring to the new footbridge linking the center to City Hall. “The Schupf Center will be the new downtown centerpiece, complementary to Castonguay Square, Common Street and our historic City Hall, and will add another gateway to Waterville Opera, the jewel of the city.

Paul Ureneck, Colby’s Director of Commercial Real Estate, oversaw construction of the college’s downtown area and worked closely with Landry/French during the difficult COVID-19 pandemic, as labor shortages construction and material delivery delays were common for many projects in the region. .

A worker crosses the walkway connecting the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, left, to the Waterville Opera House in downtown Waterville on Thursday. Rich Abrahamson / Morning Watch

Clark said the Schupf Center project runs five days a week and sometimes on weekends, using local labor and materials.

“We haven’t had any real work issues, no work stoppages due to COVID and other challenges,” he said. “They did a great job.”

The 29,932 square foot center is named after Paul J. Schupf, a longtime art collector and benefactor of Colby who lived in Hamilton, New York, and died in 2019 at age 82. Schupf, also the college’s trustee emeritus, gave a gift denomination for the center, the amount of which he asked not to reveal.

The center is designed to be a hub and destination for visual and performing arts, arts education and film for people of all ages. Colby and Waterville Creates, a non-profit organization that supports and promotes art and culture in Waterville, worked together on the project.

The center will feature an all-glass wall facing Place Castonguay and will include the Joan Dignam Schmaltz Art Gallery, the Ticonic Gallery and Studios, and the Ed Harris Box Office, which will service all of the building’s and Opera de Waterville.

The Opera will be accessible to the art center by a glass walkway. Three theaters on the second floor will replace those currently at the Railroad Square Cinema and will be the focal point of the Maine Film Center and the Maine International Film Festival.

Clark said the three theaters would likely move to the top floor around mid-November or the first part of December. The windows at the front of the building facing Main Street will be the cinema lobby, where people waiting to see films can admire the downtown core. The glass curtain on the south side of the building, facing Castonguay Square, will also provide this transparency.

“It’s really going to bring light and vibrancy to the street,” Clark said.

The brick facade on the main street side of the building is expected to start going up this spring, he said.

Mayor Jay Coelho said Thursday he thinks the center is doing well.

“Honestly, they worked a lot faster than I expected,” he said. “It will be good to see some of these projects come to fruition. I’m excited about what’s happening in the city.

Kimberly Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber looks forward to the completion of the Schupf Center, which she says will be an economic engine for events and activities in the downtown.

“It will be fantastic to turn the lights back on at this location adjacent to Castonguay Square and City Hall,” said Lindlof, who is also executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council.

More than $200 million in investment is underway downtown, including projects Colby has completed such as the $25 million Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons renovation, $26 million for Lockwood Hotel, $6 million for Arts Collaborative and $5 million for the renovation of the old Waterville Savings Bank.

The city’s $11.2 million downtown BUILD project is due to be completed by the end of this year and will change Front and Main streets from one-way to two-way traffic, improve intersections and sidewalks and include new landscaping.

The work has prompted some business owners to buy and invest in downtown buildings.


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