HALLOWELL — Matt Morrill made a big commitment to Hallowell when he purchased the Stevens School campus in April. He’s asking the city to make the same commitment to him.

Morrill hosted more than 40 people for a site walk on the property Monday afternoon to share his short-term and long-term vision for the 54-acre campus. The walk was in advance of Thursday’s Planning Board meeting at City Hall which will address several proposed ordinance changes related to the Stevens School campus.

For more than an hour, Morrill and his attorney, Tom Federle, answered questions while walking around the property. Morrill first took people from the center quad, which is surrounded by five historic buildings, to Erskine Hall, which Morrill said is the building in the worst condition. He said the floors are buckling in several places and its roof has been leaking for 20 years.

“It’s shabby and needs a lot of work to retrofit or rehab the building,” said Councilor George LaPointe. “I don’t know if it’s worth that.”

Cleveland Hall and the Stevens Building, which served as the Central Maine Pre-Release Center, are in decent shape and would appear to be salvageable. Morrill sees the Stevens Building as a place for light retail space, artists’ workspace and “maybe a coffee shop or small restaurant.”

“I’m open to ideas,” Morrill said. “My idea isn’t final, and I’m willing to listen to suggestions.”

Morrill told the assembled crowd, which included councilors, members of the Planning Board and others who were taking notes and asking questions throughout, that he sees additional space on the campus for affordable senior housing, a large conservation area and two cluster developments with single-family homes. He is asking the city for about $1 million for infrastructure improvements to the roads, sewer, drainage and water on the property.

For the city to pony up $1 million without a guarantee it would see a return on its investment is a lot to ask, Morrill said. Federle said they are asking the city to share some of the risks.

“I’m not trying to do this all myself,” Morrill said. “It’s our intention to make this something that other developers would come in and want to help develop too.”

Ruth LaChance, president of the Hallowell Board of Trade, expressed concern that retail space on the property would take business away from the downtown district, but Morrill said it was his intention that any businesses on the campus would not come at a detriment to the established Water Street businesses.

Morrill, of Grand View Log and Timber Frames in Winthrop, purchased the 54-acre property from the state in April for $215,000. The state had been trying to sell the property for nearly a decade, and it was listed for sale for $1.1 million in 2008 but had no takers. Appraiser David Dwyer said a 40-acre portion of the property was valued at $900,000 last May.

Hallowell has long struggled to find something to do with one of the last undeveloped areas in the city. For more than 15 years, there was talk about relocating the city’s fire station building, which was built more than 180 years ago, to the Stevens School campus, but ultimately that project stalled.

The only current occupants on the campus are Regional School Unit 2, which has had its headquarters in the Reed Center for more than 20 years, and the state’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which has a lease for its administrative building and associated garage until Jan. 15, 2017.

Morrill said he is working on securing a tenant for the Baker Building, and he has already started making small improvements to the structure.

The Planning Board needs to make changes to several ordinances related to Stevens School, which is in its own district, before Morrill can really start working on redevelopment. Morrill said he would like to get the infrastructure work — roads, sewer, drainage — started by the fall with the hope of completing the work by winter.

Longtime Planning Board member Jane Orbeton said the board will be making a recommendation to the City Council during Thursday’s meeting on whether to approve or deny the proposed ordinance changes.

The Planning Board meets at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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