South Portland hotel eyes October opening; CarMax downsizes plan

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Construction is underway for the new Tru by Hilton hotel, one of the first 15 of its kind.

The new hotel will be at 369 Maine Mall Road, across from the Maine Mall.

There are also still plans to build a CarMax auto dealership next door, which will be a smaller facility than initially proposed.

The Tru by Hilton is set to open in October, next door to the DoubleTree by Hilton, which is also owned by Florida developer Joe VanWhy. The hotel is expected to have 50 employees, with hiring to begin 90 days before the hotel opens.

Marketed specifically to millennials, the 44,000-square-foot hotel will have 98 rooms and include a fitness center, laundry, dog park, free breakfast area and social gathering space.

The hotel will finish a nearly decade-long build-out of the property owned by VanWhy.

“I am excited to be on the leading edge of this new hotel brand, backed by an established industry leader like Hilton,” VanWhy said in a statement. “The exciting new 98-room Tru by Hilton concept is sure to appeal to millennials and other value-conscious travelers who want to get the most for their travel dollars.”

A Cracker Barrel restaurant opened on VanWhy’s property in 2010, followed by Chipotle in 2011 and Starbucks and Mattress Firm in 2014. He also renovated the former Wyndham hotel and converted it to the DoubleTree.

VanWhy invested several million dollars to treat storm water from his property before it flows into the Long Creek Watershed, according to a news release.

“Joe VanWhy has exceeded the standard for water quality,” Tex Haeuser, planning and development director for South Portland, said in the statement. “The storm drainage system he built cleans not only the stormwater from his development, but also additional stormwater from adjacent areas.”

While VanWhy did not have an updated cost estimate for the project, it was pegged in May 2016 at $8.5 million.

“Costs to develop the actual Tru are not easily defined because of additional work done for the overall storm treatment facilities, plus I already owned the land,” VanWhy said.

CarMax

Stephen Puleo, community planner for South Portland, said there are still plans to build a CarMax auto dealership at 415 Maine Mall Road. The dealership will be built on the vacant lot previously occupied by Maine Mall Cinema 7, a Pizza Hut, an IHOP restaurant and a Mobil gas station.

Puleo said the plans include a 6,700-square-foot building, parking for 550 used vehicles, and parking for 93 other vehicles. There will also be space on the lot to store wholesale vehicles for distribution that will not be sold to the public.

The original plans for the CarMax dealership included a 17,625-square-foot dealership and a 990-square-foot car wash.

Puleo said the dealership will only sell used vehicles. It will be the first CarMax north of Massachusetts, but there are no plans for winter construction.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter@melaniesochan.

Carpenter Greg Scribner, left, and Dave Soucier, a foreman at Lindsey Foundations of Milford, install an interior footing at the new Tru by Hilton at 369 Maine Mall Road in South Portland.

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