HALLOWELL — After more than a decade on the market, the state of Maine has finally sold the Stevens School property in Hallowell.

Mastway Development LLC acquired nearly 53 acres on the campus for $215,000, according to David Heidrich, director of communications for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. The LLC is controlled by Matt Morrill, owner of Grand View Log and Timber Frames in Winthrop.

Morrill would not disclose details of his plans for the property, but he did say he was excited about the possibilities.

“Hallowell is such cool little city, and this piece of property deserves new life that will benefit the whole community,” Morrill said by email. “However, it’s a complex site that presents an enormous amount of challenges, and it will take time and a lot of cooperation from both local and state agencies.”

The state had been marketing the property for the last 10 years, so it was in the best interest of both Maine and Hallowell to get the property to a private developer, Heidrich said. He said had no knowledge of what Morrill planned to do with the property.

Morrill said he’s been interested in the Stevens School campus for some time, and he approached the state more than a year ago when he learned it would be trying to sell the property again.

“Our company was the only company to step up and work through all of the nuances to make this deal happen,” Morrill said. “Acquiring the property was only the first of many steps needed before any redevelopment can occur.”

The sale marks a decade-long endeavor by the state to sell the campus, which was built in the late 1870s as a boarding school for girls. The state first listed the property for $1.1 million in 2008, but there were no takers. Various reports over the past few years mentioned the presence of the Central Maine Pre-Release Center as a turn-off for potential buyers, but that facility closed in 2013.

Last May, appraiser Daniel Dwyer placed a nearly $900,000 value on a 40-acre portion of the property and said a mixed use would best suit the property.

Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker has long stated that the city needs more mixed-use space including affordable housing, a point he repeated Tuesday.

“I think (mixed use) makes the most sense with some affordable housing and commercial office space,” Walker said. “But we would also include a fair amount of open space, because there are some really nice vistas and conservation areas up there.”

Walker said the city has been awaiting an announcement about the property, which has seen a majority of its 14 buildings suffer from deterioration because of lack of maintenance. The condition of the buildings, Walker said, probably contributed to such a low purchase price.

“As the condition of the buildings deteriorated, so did their value,” Walker said. “It’s going to be a lot of work and a lot of expense.”

Morrill built the Hallowell Overlook development, up the street from the Stevens School campus, in 2013; and his familiarity with the city gives Walker comfort.

“He’s proven himself to be a good developer, and I’m sure he has some excellent plans and ideas,” Walker said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how they are built upon.”

Councilor Alan Stearns said he thinks some of the existing buildings are a liability, not an asset. But he said the sale is a big opportunity for the city.

“I see (the property) as an extension of the energy of the village, and bringing in more residents and more workers will only make the whole village stronger,” Stearns said. “It’s an enormous opportunity for Hallowell to bring private investment and bring new facilities to town.”

Stearns said the council realizes that ordinances in the Stevens School area are tight and were adopted a decade ago, when the real estate market was strong. He said he expects any developer to ask for flexibility.

“I think many people in the council will be flexible and consider ordinance changes,” Stearns said. The city now receives no tax revenue from the entire parcel, but Stearns said the new developer would be expected to work with the city on TIF financing.

In connection with the sale, Morrill and the state agreed on a deal for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to lease the administrative building and its associated garage until Jan. 15, 2017, while renovation of the mechanical building on the state’s East Campus are completed.

The state will pay Morrill $1,872.92 per month for the administrative building and $257.42 per month for the garage.

The Reed Center is the only other occupied building on the campus. Regional School Unit 2 has operated in the complex for about two decades and bought its building and nearly 10 acres from the state last June. Other state agencies that called the campus home over the years included the Department of Marine Resources and the Natural Resources Service Center.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ