Executive Director of Waterville Main Street Shannon Haines visited campus on March 1 to speak with students about the importance of supporting local businesses. The event served as part of the Colby-Waterville Alliance’s (CWA) annual “Burst the Bubble” week, which lasted this year from February 28 to March 5. This weeklong series of events encourages students to “burst out” of the Colby “bubble” and connect with the greater Waterville community.
Waterville Main Street is one branch of the National Main Street Program, an organization that aims to revitalize over 2,000 towns across the country. Haines has been with the Waterville Main Street since 2003, two years after the organization was founded.
Many businesses in downtown Waterville are accredited through the organization. Without Waterville Main Street, the city would not house a farmers’ market, Barrels Community Market or the Hathaway apartments. Haines is currently recruiting new businesses–most notably an Indian restaurant–to join downtown Waterville.
Waterville Main Street’s calendar of events also includes “Get Up Downtown” and “Hill ’n the Ville,” both of which the College co-sponsors. “We’re trying to encourage Colby staff and students to come downtown, in addition to encouraging the community to come to Colby,” Haines said.
Haines offers tours downtown Waterville to COOT2 groups to help bridge the gap between the College and local the community. The organization’s connection with the CWA is also important to her. “It’s great to have student contacts on campus,” she said. The Alliance recruits volunteers for events like “Hill ’n the Ville” and for the upcoming Earth Day event on April 23, which will offer attendees the opportunity to eat local foods, listen to live music and participate in a 5K run.
Waterville Main Street conducts annual surveys to promote more businesses. This year, the organization will survey the staff at Colby, Thomas College and Maine General Medical Center regarding what sort of businesses they would like to see downtown. “Downtown is the heart of the community,” Haines said.
Despite the recent downturn of the economy, which has affected the development of the Waterville community, Haines and members of the CWA remain motivated to revitalize the city’s downtown area. Their current effort involves receiving more “likes” on the “Downtown Waterville, Maine wants an Indian Restaurant” Facebook page, which has received support from 175 people so far.
Other “Burst the Bubble” events included an open house at Barrels Community Market, a dinner and discussion with City Manager Mike Roy about local politics and discounts at restaurants downtown.