As Colby prepared to welcome students back to campus for the fall semester, President of the College David Greene revealed plans to convert the Lockwood Hotel into student dormitories for the 2020-21 year. The move, announced in a June 30 email, seeks to offset the housing crunch caused by the many juniors unable to go abroad due to the pandemic and another record-breaking first-year class. President Greene shared in an August email that “Colby begins this academic year with the largest enrollment in its 208-year history.”
So, instead of welcoming tourists and families of students looking for a place to stay during move-in, the Lockwood instead saw students with boxes and luggage moving into the lodge late August.
The Lockwood Hotel was initially announced as an additional $26 million investment by Colby into downtown Waterville in early June 2019. The four-story, 48,000 square-foot building, allowed for an additional 53 rooms to become available for non-first year students to provide housing for the inflated study body.
Students on the housing waitlist were able to select rooms on any floor of the Lockwood. All rooms are currently doubles, with some rooms acting as four-person suites with adjoining doors. Most of the existing furniture in the hotel rooms were replaced with new twin-size bed frames, a dresser, desk, and chair akin to the furniture of on-campus housing.
To assist with the commute for students living at the Lockwood, Colby Security has added another stop on the shuttle service. One of the most prominent complaints so far from Lockwood residents is the wait time for the shuttle.
“A roundtrip from the hotel to campus should only take twenty minutes, but sometimes the wait time for the shuttle is anywhere from ten to twenty minutes,” Maggie Blake, ’23 told the Echo. “So, I often have to allot one hour if I’m going back to my room.”
While students can use an app to track the shuttle’s arrival time and current location, Blake said that the accuracy of those times has been inconsistent.
For students with their own vehicles, the parking lot in front of the hotel is available. “Parking is usually not an issue, and plenty of spots are available,” Blake said.
When asked whether they feel disconnected from the Colby community because they are commuter students, Blake said, “A little. But it helps that I still eat most of my meals on campus.”
Lulu Saghie, ’23, another Lockwood resident, agreed with Blake. “I do feel connected to campus, but it honestly does feel more distant than last year. It was nice having the time and luxury to move around campus freely rather than needing to plan how I can get there.”
Students living at the Lockwood remain on Colby’s meal plan. For the first two weeks, the College provided a food truck by the entryway of the hotel that offered breakfast to the students. Starting this week, the breakfast services moved to a room in the hotel where students have the grab-and-go option and access to a refrigerator.
Lockwood residents also have access to a laundry room in the basement of the hotel, where laundry payments are done via an app instead of a Colby card like is done in other dorms.
Both Blake and Saghie said that the best part of living at the luxury hotel is the private bathroom. However, Blake added that she wished there were more study spaces at the hotel and that the construction can be noisy in the morning.
Construction remains a constant at the hotel. In an interview with The Colby Echo, Paul Ureneck, the Director of Commercial Real Estate for the College, explained that the building’s exterior landscape and hardscape improvement still need to be completed. These aspects include the hotel’s limestone facade. Ureneck noted that delays were minimal.
“Construction was slowed during the initial stages of the pandemic due to labor availability and supply chain challenges,” Ureneck said. “However, we were able to solve those issues through various means and get the project back on track. The completion date remains essentially the same.”
There have also been at least two reported water leakages in two hotel rooms occupied by students. Ureneck said that there is no issue with the piping in the building. The leakages could also be a result of simultaneous construction happening downtown where the Kennebec Water District is replacing pipes that are over one hundred years old.
The hotel is still on track to be completed between late October and mid-November, at which time it will include its very own restaurant called “Front & Main” along with outdoor patio space and park.
~Fiona Huo `23