The Best Western Plus Rumford Falls hotel at 50 Prospect Ave. is depicted in an artist’s rendering.

Investors and others in the Best Western Plus Rumford Falls hotel project meet at the site at 50 Prospect Ave. on Monday. From left are Brian O’Donnell, Building Solutions of Oxford; Jim Rinaldo, economic developer; Dick Lovejoy, investor; Tony Carter, Pennacook Falls Investments; Peter Sherr, senior project manager with Ransom Consulting; and Joseph Casalinova, Casalinova Development Group of Oxford.

Joseph Casalinova of Casalinova Development Group in Oxford speaks about the Best Western Plus Rumford Falls hotel at a meeting Saturday in Rumford.

RUMFORD — Cleanup of the former Puiia Hardware site at 50 Prospect Ave. will begin July 17, making way for a four-story Best Western Plus Rumford Falls hotel, officials said Monday.

Peter Sherr, senior project manager for Ransom Consulting Inc. of Portland, said the monthlong property cleanup will include disposal of asbestos materials and universal wastes, and general construction and demolition debris.

Tony Carter, president of Pennacook Falls Investments Ltd., is leading 22 local investors in developing the four-story, 60-room hotel near the foot of Falls Hill on Route 2.

“It’s been a long 20 to 24 months,” he said. “We were hoping to break ground last fall, but with permitting and everything, we needed to ensure that we had a clean site.”

Carter said he anticipates occupancy to be in 10 to 12 months.

Carter said their investment team wanted the hotel to be “the stimulus to bring more business to Rumford. We’re not hotel owners, but we needed to do something for our children and grandchildren that are here. This hotel will change Rumford.”

He noted that a groundbreaking ceremony with town and state officials will take place “within a week or two.”

A public meeting was held Saturday in the conference room at the Town Hall on the federally funded cleanup.

Pennacook Falls Investments Ltd. has been awarded a loan for $395,250 through the Maine Department of Economic Development Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund program.

The hotel investment group is working with Casalinova Development Group LLC of Oxford and with Building Solutions, also of Oxford.

Joseph J. Casalinova, planner/developer for Casalinova Development Group, said the loan is guaranteed by members of the investment group.

Casalinova noted that the loan entails no obligation to the town.

“This is public money, guaranteed privately and paid for directly by the hotel,” he said.

Chris Brennick, chairman of the Rumford Board of Selectmen, said, “When people start seeing people on site, and start doing work, that will dispel that whole rumor mill that it’s not happening.”

He talked about another lot the investment group owns across the street, on the other side of Dead River fuel company. Brennick asked if there are any plans to do anything with that lot, which offers a nice view of the falls.

“This would be a Phase II when this (project) is done,” Casalinova said. “We would have development plans to move forward with this piece. Anything we develop here will be added to the hotel needs, but not meant to take away from what’s going on downtown.”

Brian M. O’Donnell of Building Solutions said that working with Best Western guidelines, they want to incorporate photos and history of Rumford in the interior common areas, the lobbies, the reception area, the business area and the breakfast area.

Rumford Selectman Mark Belanger asked when Rumford will be repaid for a loan approved for the hotel project through the town’s revolving loan fund, which “is pretty well dry now.”

Casalinova said that will be included in their business plan, which will be presented to the board in the future.

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