Oxford hotel developers awaiting corporate approval

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OXFORD  — A local developer said he is waiting for final corporate approval before he can give contractors the green light to begin construction on a Hampton Inn across from the Oxford Casino.

In an interview in his office Thursday morning, Joseph Casalinova, president of Casalinova Development Group, said the final site review for the proposed 90-plus room Hampton Inn and conference center has been submitted, but groundbreaking cannot begin until after its corporate office gives final authorization. 

His group, which has been shepherding the roughly $10.4 million project through its permitting phases, will complete its contractual part of the projection once Hilton officials sign off. At that point, eventual owners GIRI Hotel Management will take over, he said.

“It will be like handing off the baton,” Casalinova said.

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A spokesperson at Hilton Worldwide, which owns the Hampton Inn brand, could only comment on currently open hotels. A message left at GIRI’s Quincy, Mass., headquarters was not returned Thursday afternoon. 

Developers first announced earthwork on the site in March, and in June received authorization to build from the state Fire Marshal’s Office. 

Casalinova suggested the delay is because to different expectations on the length the process takes; locally, the town and state expedited the project through permitting, so those results came quicker than the corporation expected. 

“The wheels of corporate move (slowly),” Casalinova said. 

Hotel construction is synchronized with the town’s sewer project, he said, which engineers most recently estimated will go online next fall. 

“You can’t have a hotel sitting (without a sewer) because you can’t pump,”  he said.

The town received only preliminary plans and awaits a final set of schematics, Code Enforcement Officer Rodney Smith said.

“Everybody is getting a little discouraging whether this is going to go up in the first place,” Smith said Wednesday.

Though the fire marshal’s permit expires Dec. 26, it’s expected the state will reissue the license, according to Casalinova. 

“We received word before Thanksgiving that we would get the letter of approval in a few weeks. As soon as I have it, I’m going to call up (Town Manager Michael Chammings) to let him know,” he said.

In December 2013, selectmen signed a credit enhancement agreement with Thurlow Family LLC, the company representing the family who owns property around the planned hotel. The agreement returns part of the new property taxes generated by development for use on preapproved infrastructure projects. 

The town intends to use the money to pay for the debt and maintenance costs on a $23.7 million sewer project. 

According to the terms of the agreement, developers are required to add at least $10 million in value to the property by April 1. With that deadline apparently impossible to meet, Casalinova said he will ask selectmen to amend the original terms to a later date. 

Chammings previously said the town has sufficient reserves to pay for the project without the hotel. 

The hotel is a small part of the overall plans developers have for the site, a so-called 550 ‘master plan’ to transform the farmland encircling the casino into a thriving resort and outlet-shopping destination. 

“We’re going to be adding another $30 million to $40 million in other projects. It’s something really exciting,” Casalinova said.

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