OXFORD — A 98-unit, single family house subdivision is being proposed for farmland on Route 26 across the street from the Oxford Casino.
David Woodward of vhb in South Portland who represents the landowners, the Thurlow Family, presented the three-phase, preliminary subdivision application to the Planning Board at its November 8 meeting, saying the development will begin with 32 townhouses on some 73 acres.
If they sell well the project will continue, he told board members.
Earlier this year, more than 100 acres surrounding the Oxford Casino, including this parcel, was on the market through KW Commercial in Portland, the commercial real estate arm of Keller Williams Realty, for commercial development.
The potential for economic development was believed to be in excess of $50 million in retail and mixed use, Kevin Fletcher of KW Commercial in Portland told the Advertiser Democrat last January.
But Woodward said it has been a “struggle” to sell and the decision was made to take some of it for single family housing in hopes that might be an easier sell.
Other ideas have been floated such as retirement communities, but they did not appear to gain any traction, he said.
Fletcher, who was hired by the Thurlow Family LLC to market the Route 26 property which included parcels to the north, east and south of Oxford Casino that were consolidated about four years ago by family members under Thurlow Family LLC. said in January the land was on the market for $100,000 per acre.
It is the same property that was expected to be developed by the Casalinova Development Group after its president, Joe Casalinova, announced in 2014 his intention, in partnership with the Thurlow family, to create seven distinct business “villages” on the land to capitalize on the economic stimulus generated by Oxford Casino.
Woodward said the three-phase plan will start with 32, single family townhouses. If they sell well, Woodward said the second phase and then the third phase of the housing development will continue totalling 98, two and three-bedroom family homes total on the 73-acre lot.
“We’re pretty excited about this,” said Woodward, who expects to come back before the Planning Board in March or April of 2019 with a full application for approval.
The development will work within the Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps approved permit to move the earth.
Woodward said he met with the DEP last month to amend the permit to include a stormwater pond on the south end of the property during the initial development.
The development will be developed in a stair stepping or terrace effect and attempts will be made to save as many trees as possible.
The family patriarch, Evan Thurlow, a former Oxford selectman, sold more than 100 acres of his land to BB Development in 2010. That group of local investors constructed and opened the Oxford Casino in 2012 at the corner of Rabbit Valley Road and Route 26, then selling it to Churchill Downs in 2013.
Casalinova said at the time he would market the remainder of the property to businesses in the service industry, with the idea of creating a family-friendly retail and recreational space. There were also plans to have a second flagship or boutique hotel on site, and an approximately 40,000-square-foot, two-level shopping center. The first floor would be for retail use, the second floor for other, mixed use.
Casalinova helped the Thurlow family apply for and sponsor $125 million in credit enhancements to develop the land, which is within the town’s tax-increment zone atop what is known locally as Pigeon Hill. An initial $10 million was invested to develop the Hampton Inn.
His master plan was expected to turn the farmland into an economic engine over five years, similar to the North Conway shopping area.