AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s administration wants to consolidate state agencies in a massive leased facility with more space than the capital’s Wal-Mart once it’s built.

But because the state’s request for proposals — released Saturday — demands that the building or buildings be within a mile of the State House, only one person may be able to build it: Peter Anastos, a Yarmouth hotelier allied with the Republican governor.

Anastos gained the right to purchase the state-owned former Maine Department of Transportation garage on Capitol Street earlier this year, and Keith Luke, Augusta’s deputy development director, identified it as perhaps the only property that could fit the administration’s proposal.

The state is asking for a new 225,000-square-foot facility that would change Augusta’s face: Almost 1,400 state employees would work there, and the state wants the owner to provide 1,300 parking spaces. The new leased state office could open in 2018, according to materials attached to the state’s request for proposal. Proposals are due in February.

Kevin Mattson, president of Dirigo Capital Advisors, which holds state leases at the Central Maine Commerce Center in north Augusta, said prospects for such a large, prominent facility are unprecedented for the city. He said it would save money for the state and have a “gravitational pull” that spurs development around it.

“It’s like a planet just suddenly emerging in the solar system,” Mattson said. “So, it’s a big deal for Augusta.”

The proposed facility would house undetermined state agencies, said David Heidrich, a Department of Administrative and Financial Services spokesman.

But LePage has been looking to consolidate the Department of Health and Human Services, headquartered in an aging State Street building with employees also working in 10 leased spaces in Augusta, according to city data.

Luke said a “very limited number of properties” would be able to accommodate the state’s request for proposals, with the garage at the top of the list. The geographic area includes state-owned land on the former Augusta Mental Health Institute campus on the city’s east side.

In his budget proposal earlier this year, LePage proposed borrowing $112 million to redevelop state-owned land there to house state agencies. But the Maine Legislature reduced that request to $23 million in the final budget and passed over LePage’s objection in June.

Anastos, who was appointed chairman of the Maine State Housing Authority by LePage in 2011, said he’ll be submitting a bid for the project. The owner of Maine Course Hospitality Group, which operates hotels across the region, contributed to LePage’s 2014 campaign and led Republican reforms at the housing authority.

He said he got the option to purchase the Capitol Street garage from the Maine Department of Transportation in April and retains it until early next year.

Ted Talbot, a department spokesman, said if Anastos decides to buy it, the price would be $1.3 million.

But Anastos said he did that with no promise for development. He said he initially pitched it as a government site and got no interest until late June, after the state’s Bureau of General Services saw Anastos’ plans for the site and the idea “piqued their interest.”

Heidrich said the request for proposal or its geographic scope wasn’t motivated by Anastos’ conditional acquisition of the property. He said the state’s preference “would be to own its own facility in Augusta,” but the Legislature prevented that and “a consolidated, leased facility is preferable to the status quo.”

“There are economic and physical efficiencies to be gained by having the facilities located close to state government,” he said.

But the city would have to approve the project, and Luke said while it’s better for taxpayers than a new, non-taxable state-owned facility would be, prospects for a new building are mixed for Augusta. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention now occupies the large Key Bank building in downtown Augusta. If those employees moved, that would virtually empty the prominent downtown building.

“If it means emptying out an important downtown building, that would certainly temper any enthusiasm that might exist for this project,” Luke said. “It may not be a straight-up home run for the city, but we haven’t seen all the details.”

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...