WINSLOW — A $3.7 million project to transform a former convent and retreat center into a 27-unit residence for people 55 and over is underway off Halifax Street.

The building renovation is the first step in a three-part project that’s planned to include construction of duplex cottages and homes on the 65-acre property, according to owners Herbert and Heidi Goudreau.

“This will be the biggest retirement community in central Maine,” Herbert Goudreau said Friday at the site. “There’s nothing like this here.”

The Goudreaus, who already own retirement residences in Waterville and Winslow, bought the former convent property in October.

The sprawling estate, to be called Goudreau’s Waterfront Retirement Community, includes a long, tree-lined private road to the building, a circular paved driveway, landscaped lawns, rolling fields and a spectacular view of the Sebasticook River.

“There is a 30-minute walking path, a 45-minute walking path and a 60-minute walking path,” Herbert Goudreau said. “They’re all mowed and beautiful and they meander around the whole property.”

Town Manager Michael Heavener said Friday that the project presents a housing opportunity that does not now exist in town. It will give residents who retire and want to downsize an opportunity to stay in Winslow, he said.

“This is a gem,” he said of the site. “This is just a beautiful place.”

The property was previously the Living Water Spiritual Center, operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Built in 1963, the three-story, brick convent has been gutted and plans are for an addition that will house a 20-by-40-foot indoor, heated saltwater swimming pool, steam room, exercise gymnasium and covered porch. An outdoor heated swimming pool also will be built.

Jeff Brown, owner of J.M. Brown Construction, said Friday that demolition of the inside of the building started about a month ago and he expects renovations to be complete Oct. 1, at which time tenants may move in.

“It’s going to be, essentially, a brand new building when we’re done,” Brown said.

The building will be 40,000 square feet when complete, according to Goudreau. Each of the 27 apartments, targeted for people 55 and older, will have a full kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom.

Monthly rents will range from $2,200 to $3,000, depending on size, he said. Tenants will be allowed to have cats and dogs.

Included in the rent are all utilities except telephone, as well as 30 minutes of housekeeping a week, continental breakfast, a main meal in the evening and use of the pools and grounds. A bus service, also included in the rent, will take residents to the grocery store and Walmart, as well as on trips to places such as Camden and Greenville. Goudreau said he expects to employ about 12 people at the site.

Unlike an apartment building project under construction on Elm Street in Waterville and the Gerald building on Main Street in Fairfield, the Goudreau’s project is privately owned and the apartments will not be subsidized.

The building, to be staffed 24 hours a day, will include an office, formal dining room, living room, library and large commercial kitchen where an executive chef will cook meals. Room service will be available to tenants. The building also will have a room that can be reserved for parties.

The second phase of the project, to start this fall, will include construction of two-bedroom/bathroom cottages on the property and then private residential homes will be built near the river, according to Goudreau. Residents of the cottages and homes will have access to the dining room and other facilities.

Docks for canoeing and kayaking on the river will be built and the trails can also be used for cross country skiing, he said. A pagoda will be built for outdoor barbecues, and family members are welcome to stay overnight in the apartments and homes, he said.

“This is their home — they can do what they want,” he said.

Goudreau also built the 45-unit Retirement Inn & Suites on Augusta Road in Winslow in 1980, and the 38-room, eight-suite Goudreau’s Retirement Inn at 110 College Ave. in Waterville in 1992.

“I built the one in Winslow when I was 26 years old and I’m 51,” Herbert Goudreau said. “It was a brand new concept. It was before assisted living. I brought the idea up from Florida.”

Goudreau was born and raised in Union, where his mother and father owned boarding homes and he grew up around them from the time he was seven. He said he knew then that he wanted to be in the business himself.

“We love what we do,” he said. “We will always be here. Companies have tried to buy us out, but we’ll never sell.”

He said that he and his wife, Heidi, 48, got a lot of requests from people who, as they got older, said they were not ready to live in a hotel-type setting — they wanted their own kitchens and wanted to be independent, but have some services available to them such as access to a prepared main meal and a place to swim. That is when the couple, who have homes in Waterville and at Moosehead Lake, started developing the retirement community concept.

Goudreau said the project was financed by Camden National Bank. People already have contacted him and placed deposits on apartments and he expects they all will be taken by the time they are ready for tenants in October.

Amy Calder — 861-9247 |

acalder@centralmaine.com | Twitter: @AmyCalder17