Christopher Crosby, Advertiser Democrat
OXFORD — Earthwork on the site of a 90-room Hampton Inn hotel with an attached restaurant across Route 26 from the Oxford Casino began last week, as developers hope to time the project to coincide with the town’s sewer system coming online later this fall.
Hotel construction on the farmland previously owned by the Hall family near Crestholm Farm stand is expected to be completed before the end of the year, according Glen Holmes Director of the Western Maine Economic Development Council, a subsidiary of Community Concepts Finance Corporation.
‘It’s the next step in economic development which is going to help attract the restaurant and retail establishments around it over the coming years. These are not short term projects,’ Holmes said, confirming it would be a Hampton Inn.
The hotel project is a joint venture by Thurlow Family LLC, Casalinova Development Group, and GIRI Hotel Management, based out of Qunicy, Mass. GIRI, who is overseeing construction, has five properties throughout Maine, in Waterville, two in Augusta, Brunswick and Freeport.
It will be the first franchise hotel in the Oxford Hills region.
Holmes toured the site on Tuesday, as dump trucks delivered a steady stream of sand and crews grading the hillside surface in anticipation for construction. The start date for hotel construction has not been set as crews wanted to take the project a step at a time, Holmes said.
The project schedule is contingent on Oxford’s sewer construction plans. Hotel owners want to have access to public sewer lines, while the town ensures there are a number of users tapped into the system as soon as it goes live.
A contract between the town and Ovivo USA, LLC, the company that selectmen hired in December to provide the equipment for its wastewater treatment facility, was finalized over a month ago. However, the town has been delayed in constructing pipelines as it has not acquired the final parcels of land on which to build pump station collection points.
The exact date the hotel will open has not been determined as the sewer project will set the construction pace, Holmes said.
Although the WMEDC, a subsidiary of Paris-based Community Concepts Finance Corporation, has not received a loan application and is not providing financial capital toward the project, Holmes said the group has provided logistical assistance for developers, contractors, and property owners.
The hotel will sit on four acres of land deeded to GIRI Oxford in November, a subsidiary of GIRI, according to records from the Oxford County Registry of Deeds. The project, which includes a restaurant, will cost in the region of $15.4 million according to development plans submitted to the town. It expects to create 90 construction jobs and employ 80 people when it opens.
Holmes expected to be able to announce the name of the restaurant shortly.
In August Casalinova Development Group, who was hired to help oversee the conceptual portions of the project, unveiled a ‘master plan’ of which the hotel and restaurant are just a portion of a larger plan to bring commercial retail and entertainment outlets to a 19.5 acre parcel across from the casino.
Thurlow Family LLC, who represents the family that owns the property, signed a 15-year credit enhancement agreement with the town in the beginning of December which allows them to recoup 20 percent of the increased property taxes about $367,500 total, according to the deal – generated by the hotel development in exchange from infrastructure improvements.
According to Chammings, the funds will be placed into a special account which the town will control. After the company demonstrates it has made improvements, the town will reimburse it.
The original terms of the agreement stipulated the town could rescind the deal if developers did not add $4 million in property value by April 1, 2014, and $10 million by April 1, 2015. On Tuesday, Chammings said the town will remove the first deadline because the hotel project was delayed by the sewer construction.
The requirements were established so the town could capture tax revenue from the project to repay the debt on a $13.7 million loan selectmen approved to finance the sewer project. However, since the sewer project has been pushed back, Chammings said it was impossible for developers to meet the original deadline.
Possible cross promotion between the casino and the hotel has not surfaced, though Holmes anticipated they may be brought up in the future.
‘Those conversations will hopefully occur,’ he said.
Developers have eyed adding a hotel to the area since the casino went up in 2012, however prior infrastructure improvements to the region were deemed necessary to service a boom in tourism.
‘I would think having a hotel here makes a lot of sense. As does having a restaurant,’ Holmes said.
Following the casino’s construction in 2012, in December of 2012 voters authorized Oxford selectmen to secure $20.2 million to finance the sewer project.
The project is broken into two phases. Last April, selectmen approved a $13.7 million loan to finance the sewer project construction, which includes building a state of the art waste-water treatment facility at the Welchville Dam, at the intersection of Routes 26 and 121.
Sewer lines will run north and south along route 26, within the town’s TIF district, intentionally positioned to service a present and future business community.
The second phase of the project, which hinges on being awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Grant, proposes extending sewer lines north and west into residential parts of Oxford.
As of Tuesday morning a site plan for the hotel was in the final stages of completion, Holmes said and renderings for the project had not been submitted to the planning board, Oxford Town Manager Michael Chammings confirmed Tuesday.