Plans to build a massive food processing and storage facility in Belfast recently inched closer to reality, according to principals of the project, who say they have signed a lease for the former Moss Inc. manufacturing building on Route 1.

Coastal Farms and Food Processing — a partnership between former Belfast City Councilor Jan Anderson and frozen foods businessman Tony Kelley, among others — plans to outfit the building with freezers, dry storage and a food processing kitchen in an effort to establish Belfast as a regional “food processing hub.”

The business was conceived by Anderson as a way to keep more local food in the area, reducing transportation costs and potentially opening up new markets to local farmers.

In her research, Anderson found that 30 percent of Maine’s farms are located within 50 miles of Belfast. The region also has established industries in food processing, poultry and lobsters.

By contast, she found that only 20 percent of the food consumed in Maine comes from within the state. Boosting that figure by even 10 percent, she has said, would be significant.

Early plans for the Coastal Farms facility included a 12,000-square-foot freezer, a massive flash freezing tunnel, dry storage for produce, and a kitchen for a food processing business to be run by Cheryl Wixson.

Coastal Farms requested land in the Belfast Business Park earlier this year and was given an option by the city to buy three lots for $1 in exchange for the completed development. The plan would have required constructing three new buildings, and carried an estimated price tag of $2 million. The group backed away from the business park option in June, however, after signing a letter of intent to lease the former Moss building, ostensibly cutting down on construction time and initial costs.

Anderson had hoped to have the food storage and processing facility open by the beginning of October, in time for the fall harvest, but on Wednesday said the financing process, which involves a USDA-backed loan, has been slower than she originally anticipated.

“So, I’m sometimes frustrated and sometimes just have to caution myself to be patient,” she said. “It obviously is not going to happen in the timeline that I had in mind, but it will happen.”

Anderson said she has revised her own expectations and now believes a conservative estimate would see the facility open by April 1.

Between now and then, Coastal Farms must reach its goal of raising $1 million from private investors, gain the necessary city permits to convert the building, buy and install equipment and connect with farmers and the local labor force.

The last of these goals got a jumpstart recently when Coastal Farms put a “coming soon” sign outside the building. Anderson said the phone started ringing with inquiries from job-seekers, and farmers wanting to know the terms of storage.

“We’re not really at that point yet,” she said. “But basically they’re expressing an interest in using our facility, so I don’t anticipate a problem in filling the facility once we’re operational.”