Corporate approval moves Oxford hotel construction forward

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OXFORD — Commitment to the planned $15.4 million Hampton Inn across from the Oxford Casino remains strong as developers said Wednesday they hope to see the building rise before the end of 2015. 

Widely viewed as an essential accompaniment to provide lodging to gamblers visiting the Oxford Casino on Route 26, developers and local business advocates said Wednesday that the project, which was first announced nearly 18 months ago, has received final approved by Hilton Worldwide, owners of the Hampton brand.

The move effectively signals a completion of permitting work undertaken by Oxford-based developers Casalinova Development Group, transitioning the responsibility for construction to Quincy, Mass.-based owners GIRI Hotel Management. The group operates a range of hotel brands in Maine and New England. 

In a phone interview Wednesday, Casalinova Development Group President Joe Casalinova announced that his group had completed permitting and design phases of the project. 

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“I’m trying to stay positive, move everything forward and cheer everything on,” Casalinova said. 

The announcement follows a meeting last week attended by GIRI President Ash Sangani and an array of local leaders, including members of the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce, Oxford County Administrator Scott Cole, town officials and local business groups. 

John Williams, executive director of the chamber of commerce, said he did not attend the meeting but was brought up to speed afterward. The chamber, which has supported ongoing plans to develop hundreds of acres of farmland around the casino into a retail destination, called for the meeting to seek reassurances that the project was moving forward. 

The Sun Journal was made aware of the meeting earlier this week. 

“I think it means we’re ready to see the project move forward,” Williams said. “We want this project to get underway so people in the community can see the progression on expanding (development of) the entire hill.”  

Also interviewed by phone Wednesday, Sangani said he attended the meeting to emphasize his company remains fully committed to the project. 

“I wanted to start this yesterday, but there are a few things out of my control,” Sangani said, declining to elaborate on what hurdles remained. According to Sangani, the project is fully financed and will be constructed by New York-based Calamar Group.

“We’re all into it,” he said.  

In March, groundbreaking on the 90-room hotel began, and completion of the project was pegged to follow closely to the schedule of a $23.7 million wastewater treatment facility being built on Route 121, near the Welchville Dam intersection with Route 26. 

The roughly four-acre property where the hotel is to be built was purchased by GIRI from Suzanne Hall, the owner of Crestholm Farms, in November 2013 for an undisclosed sum. 

Hall, who is a member of Thurlow Family LLC, a group of landowners with property encircling the hotel and casino, signed a credit enhancement agreement with the town, obligating developers to increase the value of the property by $10 million by April 1, 2015, in order to be reimbursed for some of the new property taxes generated for use on preapproved infrastructure projects. 

As all evidence suggests that deadline will be impossible to meet, Oxford Town Manager Michael Chammings said he expects the current agreement to be revised to reflect that GIRI, not Thurlow, is the owner. The fiscal details of the agreement are expected to remain the same, he said. 

“The credit enhancement agreement goes with the property, not the developer. The owner of the property will be the one reimbursed for the costs. We’re changing some of the names, some of the dates, then we’ll have it re-signed, stating they’ll cover the town’s legal costs,” Chammings said.  

Chammings said he left meetings with Sangani last week feeling confident. 

“They have a lot of money invested in this,” Chammings said. “He told me straight out this is his No. 1 project.” 

ccrosby@sunjournal.com

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