Expansion plans for Oxford dwarf the casino

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OXFORD—While there doesn’t look like there’s much activity happening on the acres of farmland across the street from Oxford Casino on Route 26, Casalinova Development Group President Joe Casalinova assured Oxford Planning Board members there’s plenty going on behind the scenes.

Oxford Hotel
This barn, across from Oxford Casino on Route 26 in Oxford, will be torn down come the beginning of January to make way for a Hampton Inn hotel.

Building Solutions Vice President Brian O’Donnell and Casalinova met with the Planning Board on Thursday, Dec. 4, to share their plans for a mixed use retail center on the surrounding land, but first gave them an update on the Hampton Inn hotel project.

Casalinova said last week he should hear from the state in 20 to 30 days on the Hampton Inn’s final site location permit. The proposed hotel would be located across the street from the casino on about 500 acres of land owned by various members of the Thurlow family that have been consolidated to spur further economic development in the area.

Casalinova said by email Tuesday that his company helped the Thurlow family apply for and sponsor $125 million in credit enhancements for the land, as it sits in the town’s tax increment zone, which the families are co-developing. An initial $10 million has been invested in the Hampton Inn, he said, adding developing the land has been the dream of the family patriarch, former Oxford Selectman Evan Thurlow.

Once the permit is issued for the Hampton Inn, which will sit on 4.3 acres, Casalinova and his company will be done with their portion of the project. The Thurlow family sold land to the Giri Group, and this company, along with Building Solutions, has completed the design and engineering for the project, Casalinova said in the email. Giri Group is waiting for the final approval from Hilton Worldwide before going out to bid for a contractor.

During the first part of January 2015, four buildings on the site of the future Hampton Inn, including a large red barn, white garage and two barns on the back of the property, will be razed to make way for hotel construction, Casalinova said. The Hampton Inn is aligning its opening with the town’s roughly $24 million wastewater treatment facility going online.

Brent Bridges, senior vice president at Woodward and Curran, the engineering firm overseeing the sewer project, said recently construction work should be done by the end of November 2015.

“We have every intention of taking advantage of that sewer and getting the businesses attracted here and development going as soon as possible,” Casalinova said about future development across from the casino. “We’ve had support from everybody who’s been looking at it.”

Casalinova Development Group Above is the floor plan for the mixed retail space on Route 26 in Oxford across from Oxford Casino, which is a development project with the Casalinova and Thurlow families.
Casalinova Development Group
Above is the floor plan for the mixed retail space on Route 26 in Oxford across from Oxford Casino, which is a development project with the Casalinova and Thurlow families.

He and O’Donnell divulged details about the Casalinova and Thurlow families’ more than $40 million Near Horizon, or Crestholm Village, project, which will be directly across the street from Oxford Casino on 92 acres. The 92 acres includes the land for the Hampton Inn. The project could be home to Jimmy the Greek’s Restaurant, which has locations in Old Orchard Beach and South Portland. Casalinova will market to convenience store and gas station companies, local businesses and others in the service industry to create a family-friendly retail and recreational space. Most units will be available for rent, and the plan includes having a second flagship or boutique hotel on site.

“We’re not sure which [other hotel] will go first. One of two of those are in the works because of the need and the demand,” Casalinova said.

The roughly 36,000- to 40,000-square-foot shopping center would have two levels, with the first for retail and the second for offices and other mixed use space. The second hotel, whatever form it takes, would be on the north side of the property.

“Once we get our permits in place, the intent is to come back in to the Planning Board, working with [Code Enforcement Officer] Rodney [Smith] and apply for individual applications for each of these projects,” Casalinova said.

Planning Board member Donald Thayer asked at the meeting on Dec. 4 if the intent was to have a retail shopping and destination center like North Conway, N.H., with its outlet malls and variety of activities.

“We’ll probably do better than North Conway,” Casalinova predicted.

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