The first ceremonial shovels of dirt were turned over Wednesday, June 26, for the new Pen Bay Medical Center physician building that hospital officials said would greatly expand health care access.

The two-story building will create 41,513-square-feet of office space to consolidate physicians' offices now located along Route 1, as well as providing room for additional specialists from Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Lee Woodward, chair of the Coastal Healthcare Alliance Board, said at the ceremony that when Dr. Mark Fourre was hired as president of the organization — which oversees both Pen Bay and Waldo County General Hospital — he looked at the supply side of health care for the region.

"He saw we had been underserved and went on a recruiting binge," Woodward said.

The result is the addition of 40 physicians and advanced medical providers.

Those physicians will occupy many of the offices in the new complex that is scheduled to be completed by the end of next summer.

Woodward pointed to the turnaround in the local health care system, which was focused on survival a few years ago and is now is fixed on excellence.

Dr. Mark Eggena, a co-chair of the capital campaign for the center, said the facility has been a longtime dream. "This is an extraordinary opportunity to expand care," he said.

Hebert Construction LLC, of Lewiston, will serve as construction manager. The new health center will be a two-story building with the main entrance on Anchor Drive. The building will be located in a currently wooded area to the northwest of the hospital and lying between it and Sussman House hospice center.

In addition to a community room, the first floor will house the pediatrics, audiology and speech pathology, and ear, nose and throat practices, as well as pediatric physical and occupational therapy.

The health center will also provide space where specialists from the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland can meet with patients in Rockport, reducing the need for children with special health needs to travel to Portland.

Richard Peterson, president of parent corporation MaineHealth and chief executive officer of Maine Medical Center, said with the added specialties, 95 percent of pediatric cases can be handled by the local health care system, with the remaining 5 percent still requiring visits to Boston.

The second floor will house the internal medicine, family medicine and psychiatry practices, as well as the Integrated Medication Assisted Treatment practice for treating opioid use disorder. Fourre pointed out the importance of serving local patients with opiate addictions.

The project was first approved by the Rockport Planning Board in March 2017. The estimated cost of the project at that time was nearly $13 million.

The event highlighted local corporate donors, including Viking Lumber, Camden National Bank and Allen Agency. Other early donors include The First National Bank, Spectrum Health and CedarWorks. Early foundation contributors include the Sunshine Lady Foundation, the Libra Foundation, the Davis Family Foundation and the Fisher Foundation.

The architect, SMRT Inc., is a regional firm with offices in Portland, Bangor, Albany, N.Y., and Andover, Mass. It has designed many health care spaces, including the Dorothy Walker Bush Pavilion at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford.

Hospital officials praised early donors, whose gifts helped raise 70 percent of the total cost of the building, enough to begin construction.