NEW LONDON — Ground was broken Wednesday for a $17.5 million senior living complex in New London.

Called Bethesda North Pointe, the campus will be located on 11 acres of land on the east side of state Highway 23 near the Carris Health clinic.

It will include 75 apartments — for independent living and various stages of assisted living and memory care — along with a chapel, fitness center and unique dining options.

It’s expected to be open by the spring of 2021 and will employ about 60 people.

The project, which has been in the planning stages for several years, was publicly announced this spring by the board of directors at Bethesda, a faith-based organization that has operated senior care facilities in Willmar for more than 100 years.

“I’d like to take a moment and pause to recognize how transformational this day is, not only for the next chapter for Bethesda’s long-standing history in the community, but also for the communities of New London, Spicer and beyond,” said Caroline Chan, chief development officer for Bethesda, during a presentation at the construction site.

“From the turnout here, it looks like everybody else is just excited as we are to share in this monumental moment,” she said.

Since it was first announced, there’s been a positive response, with interested inquiries that would fill 75% of the units.

“We get calls weekly,” Chan said. However, reservations won’t be taken until the spring of 2020.

The footings and foundations are expected to be completed this fall. Construction will be on hold during the winter, will resume this spring and take about 12 months to complete.

The campus will include housing to accommodate different stages of aging, including independent living, assisted living, enhanced assisted living and memory care assisted living.

Chan said it’s a “fluid model” in which residents stay in their apartments and the services come to them in an effort to offset the need to move to a facility with a higher level of skilled care.

Michelle Haefner, president and CEO for Bethesda, said Bethesda North Pointe will be a “community that will provide opportunities for seniors to live well and live their lives the way they’ve always lived their lives.”

A wellness center with exercise equipment will be built as part of the original plan, but there are also plans for a $2 million second phase to the wellness center that includes a heated therapy swimming pool and sport court.

A pool wasn’t in the original plan, but Chan said they heard loud and clear from the community that a therapy pool — like the one that’s at Bethesda’s wellness center in Willmar — should be part of the New London campus and they “went back to the drawing board.”

A fundraising campaign is underway, and Chan said if enough donations and grants are received, the second-phase project may be merged into the first phase and be completed by the time the campus opens.

“We have everything prepared to go except the financial stewardship that we would need,” she said.

Aaron Backman, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, said Bethesda North Pointe will have an economic impact to New London and Spicer. He said the market value of the property will increase at least 22 times from its current state and the estimated payroll of $2 million a year will be good for the local economy.

“Equally important,” Backman said, “75 households — 80% of whom will probably be from New London and Spicer — will not have to move away. They will stay right here, close to family. Close to home.”

The project includes a significant financial partnership with the city of New London, which created a 26-year tax increment financing district for the area, with a maximum of $1.5 million in TIF funds during that period.

Tax increment financing enables a city to use the additional property taxes generated by a new development to pay for certain development expenses. The city “captures” the additional property taxes and uses those tax increments to finance development costs.

The city of New London will retain 20% of the tax increments to offset costs for bringing a water main to that area and for additional housing projects within that district.

Dean Johnson, a member of the Bethesda board of directors, said the city took a risk by providing the TIF plan. “But this is a good risk,” he said, while extolling the positive selling points of the campus.

“It’s close to a clinic, close to a golf course, close to a hotel, close to lakes, close to woods, close to wildlife. You can’t get much better than that in Greater Minnesota,” Johnson said.

Construction partners include Pope Architect of St. Paul, Marcus Construction of Willmar and Lori DeAntoni Interior Designs of South Haven.