WATERVILLE — An $8 million to $10 million development of 70 to 80 apartments in the former Seton Hospital, most recently part of MaineGeneral Medical Center, could start as early as next spring, according to one of the developers.

Kevin Mattson, who bought the Chase Avenue property that houses the building two years ago for $500,000, said Tuesday that he and his partners in Waterville Redevelopment Co., Severin Beliveau and Jim Clair, will develop one and two-bedroom units in the seven-story, 150,000-square-foot building.

“It’s an important type of building and design used worldwide, and this is a perfectly preserved example,” Mattson said. “MaineGeneral took exceptional care of it and they didn’t change a thing.”

The state has approved the building as a national historic landmark, but it is still undergoing federal review for placement on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Mattson. The 1960s-era building represents Miesian architecture, developed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who founded the International Style of architecture, which features steel-framed and glass buildings. The building was originally Seton Hospital and became part of MaineGeneral in 1997.

The apartments would be rented out at market rate, in the range of $500 to $600 for a one-bedroom unit and $900 for a two-bedroom unit, Mattson said. He said he anticipates renting to employees of nearby Colby College, MaineGeneral Health and Inland Hospital.

“Waterville has big employers,” he said. “They happen to be within one mile of where we stand.”

Mattson on Tuesday stood in the shade near the building immediately after a groundbreaking for the 10,000-square-foot Woodfords Family Services building and talked about his plans for the property. The building for Woodfords, which serves preschool-age children with autism, and Child Development Services, which provides case management and direct instruction for families with children from birth to age 5, will be the first step in the project.

Waterville Redevelopment Co., a subsidiary of Dirigo Capital Advisors, will own the structure and lease it to Woodfords and Child Development Services. H.E. Callahan Construction Co. will build the structure. Christine Kendall, president of GMK Construction, of Augusta, represents the owners on the project and will oversee day-to-day operations.

She said that in a couple of weeks, workers will start digging the foundation.

About 60 people turned out for the groundbreaking, including Mayor Nick Isgro and former Mayor Karen Heck, Cindy Brown, director of Child Development Services in the Maine Department of Education, Woodfords executive director Paul Nau, other officials from Woodfords and Child Development Services, and state legislators and city councilors. Kimberly Lindlof, president and chief executive officer of Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, spoke at the event, which also was attended by Garvan Donegan, economic development specialist for Central Maine Growth Council, and Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street.

When Mattson bought the former Seton building in 2013, he said he may have to tear it down. Last month, before he appeared before the city’s Planning Board for the 10,000-square-foot Woodfords building, he said he’d like to find a way to redevelop it.

Isgro said Mattson’s plans for the former Seton building and its surrounding campus is great news for the city.

“I think this, again, goes to reinforce this notion that now is Waterville’s time and we continue to see that in one case after another — investment in Waterville,” Isgro said later Tuesday after the groundbreaking.

Colby College recently bought three downtown buildings and plans to renovate them, businessman Bill Mitchell bought two buildings on Common Street and there has been a concerted effort among several organizations to make Waterville a center for arts and culture.

“It’s not just Colby,” Isgro said. “We have the investment downtown. We’ve seen Bill Mitchell’s investment. We’ve seen the Seton campus that’s going to be underway, and in the spring, we can’t forget we have the Trafton Road interchange that’s going to be coming. The stars are really aligned around Waterville right now, and it’s our comeback story.”

Mark Eves, development officer for Woodfords, said after the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday that the Woodfords preschool, which is now in Oakland, will move to the new building once it is built next to Seton.

“It triples the square footage that we’re currently in, in Oakland,” said Eves, who also is speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. “It will double our capacity to serve kids with autism. Kids come in nonverbal and leave prepared for kindergarten with verbal skills.”

Mattson, 46, also owns the former MaineGeneral hospital on East Chestnut Street in Augusta, which he bought for $25 million and transformed into offices.

He said he hopes to start developing the former Seton building in the spring and expects the project to be completed in 12 to 16 months.

MaineGeneral consolidated its Augusta hospital and much of its Waterville services when it opened the MaineGeneral Medical Center in north Augusta in November 2013.

The Seton building already is divided into spaces required for 70 to 80 residential units and has sewer, water and utility hookups in place.

“This is literally free money for the city, because this building will pay taxes and require zero services,” Mattson said. “Even the plowing we do ourselves.”

The view from the top of the building, he said, is beautiful.

“From the top it’s actually the height of land for a 3-mile radius. You go up there and you can see Mount Washington.”

He said he hopes to develop a commercial building on the 100-acre property as well, but has no definite plans for what it would house. It could be for a medical use, he said.

Mattson plans to include the neighbors in discussions about what would be appropriate for the property, he said.

“Whenever we propose something, we bring them over to say, ‘What do you think? Do you have concerns? What could we do differently?'”

Mattson said he met with Colby officials last week for the first time and heard about the college’s plans to invest in the city.

“I was blown away by this very thoughtful, large-scale kind of once-in-a-100-year revolution that they’re hoping to lead,” he said.

He cited the Hathaway Creative Center as another important development in the city and calls Hathaway developer Paul Boghossian a visionary.

“Who would have ever thought it would turn into what it is now? Look at the economic activity in towns in southern Maine. What you have happening up here is a remarkable and exciting change. I’m so glad to be here.”

Mattson said he is impressed with how enthusiastic and helpful city and community leaders have been in welcoming his projects. All the activity occurring in Waterville will serve as a catalyst for more development, he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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