Hotel developer has ‘master plan’ for 550-acre project across from Oxford Casino

Casalinova Development Group has announced it will be build a 80-120 room hotel across the street from the Oxford Casino.
Sun Journal file photo
Casalinova Development Group has announced it will be build a 80-120 room hotel across the street from the Oxford Casino.
Posted Aug. 07, 2013, at 5:57 a.m.

OXFORD, Maine — Casalinova Development Group, the company planning a hotel and restaurant across Route 26 from the Oxford Casino, has applied for a credit-enhancement agreement to develop a 550-acre property along the highway.

The June 28 application, signed by CDG President Joseph Casalinova, refers to a proposed $125 million project that includes at least one hotel, restaurants, retail development, vehicle-related services, a recreational vehicle area and housing.

Reached Tuesday at the company’s King Street headquarters in Oxford, Casalinova declined to speak in detail about the application. Company representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The application is an initial step in the process. Negotiations between the town and developers on the size of the credit agreement are ongoing.

The property is within Oxford’s Route 26 Omnibus Municipal Development and Tax Increment Financing District.

The master plan is based on a marketing and feasibility study that is a work in progress, according to the application.

“Upon receipt of the marketing and feasibility study for the Grand Master Plan addressing the entire project consisting of approximately 550 +/- acres and the related technical survey, soils and land evaluations, we will then move forward to the next step in the credit enhancement process,” Casalinova wrote in the application.

According to the application, the first phase would include the design and construction of a hotel, a restaurant, a day-care facility, a water park and an ice cream stand, as well as infrastructure improvements such as water, sewer, electric, telephone, data and network cabling, landscape and other improvements.

Casalinova is asking the town for a 15-year, 20 percent credit-enhancement agreement, which would allow it to recoup up to 20 percent of new tax revenue it generates in the TIF zone and apply it to specific, pre-approved infrastructure development, such as installing water and sewer lines or a turn lane on Route 26.

The remaining new TIF revenue, which is sheltered from local and state taxes, would be used to pay the debt service for the town’s water line and public sewer projects.

On Tuesday, Town Manager Michael Chammings said negotiations are focused on the proposed hotel and restaurant, but the option to expand would be left open. The agreement is expected to be finalized in September, Chammings said.

“They have $125 million in there as their future vision of their property,” Chammings said. “We’re not looking at anything near that with this first phase.”

Because of a 15-year cap on the TIF, the developers were applying for a much larger parcel that would allow future expansion.

“When they start one of these credit-enhancement agreements, (they) only have a one-time shot at it, so they ask for as much as they can,” Chammings said.

“They may have (550) acres, if you add it up, in there, but it certainly doesn’t mean that’s how many acres are going to be in the credit-enhancement agreement, that’s just a negotiating point to start from,” he said.

The addition of new users from the hotel and restaurant on the town’s planned municipal sewer system would improve efficiency and help pay for the project, Chammings said.

Glenn Holmes, director of the Western Maine Economic Development Council, who has worked closely with the developers on the project, said the application was a reflection of the company’s “master plan” for the area.

Although the restaurant and hotel were the only projects being worked on at the moment, he expected further development in the area.

“Currently, the hotel is what’s envisioned, but a lot of conversations with a lot of other people are going on concurrently and I expect to see a lot of development up there in the course of the next 12 to 36 months,” Holmes said.

Casalinova announced in June that his development group would build a four-story hotel with 80 to 120 rooms across the street from the Oxford Casino.

He said he hoped to break ground this coming fall and be open for the 2014 summer season.

Last year, the town approved an $18.6 million sewage treatment plant and collection system to be constructed at the Welchville Dam to handle waste from the casino and other businesses expected to sprout along the Route 26 corridor.

Open since June 2012 and the state’s second casino, Oxford has 814 slot machines and 22 table games, and employs 420 people. It is the largest employer in the town of Oxford.

In its first six months of operation, Oxford Casino saw more than $30 million in net revenue, according to state records. The one-month total for February was $3.9 million.

In March, casino owners announced the gambling operation would be sold to the parent company of Churchill Downs Racetrack, home of the Kentucky Derby, for $160 million cash.

None of the casino investors who make up Black Bear Entertainment are part of the Casalinova hotel project. A casino representative said Black Bear plans to construct a hotel on its property, but probably not for at least another year.

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