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- The Forecaster
SOUTH PORTLAND — New restaurants and a hotel have opened their doors in the city’s west end, a trend likely to continue, according to city officials.
Joshua Reny, assistant city manager and economic development director, said generally there has been substantial investment in the city in recent years, concentrated in the Maine Mall area, and broadening the tax base.
City Assessor Jim Thomas said within a 30-acre, oval-shaped area around the mall, the assessed value of real estate totals $506 million. The assessed value of the entire city totals $3.4 billion, and the mall-area properties contribute $9.1 million in taxes to the city, he said.
“It’s an important asset,” Thomas said.
Tru by Hilton, a 98-room mid-scale brand hotel, opened Dec. 21 at 369 Maine Mall Road. It is owned by VanSleep LLC, according to a statement from the hotel’s general manager, Joe Baillargeon.
The hotel is next door to the DoubleTree by Hilton, which is also owned by Florida developer Joe VanWhy. The hotel is expected to employ 50 people.
The 44,000-square-foot hotel has 98 rooms, a fitness center, laundry, dog park, breakfast area and social gathering space.
It will complete a nearly decade-long build-out of the property by VanWhy.
A neighbor to Tru by Hilton is a CarMax, at 415 Maine Mall Road, built on a vacant lot previously occupied by Maine Mall Cinema 7, a Pizza Hut, an IHOP restaurant and a Mobil gas station.
The dealership will 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.
Big Fin Poke, which serves Hawaiian-style sushi, expanded from Westbrook to a second location at 29 Western Ave. The new restaurant owned by Jimmy Liang occupies space that formerly housed the Plaza 29 convenience store.
Tuscan Table, at 390 Gorham Road, opened this month in a former Pizza Hut building in the Maine Mall parking lot.
The bistro-style Italian restaurant is owned by Edward Manganello, and is part of a group that includes Royal River Grillhouse in Yarmouth and Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro in Freeport. The kitchen is headed by chef Lee Skawinski, formerly of Cinque Terre/Vignola in Portland.
Reny said there has been an evolution in the mall area, including interest from developers in creating residential space in that section of the city.
“It bodes well for the success of the area, generally,” Reny said of the diversified investment. A 200-unit residential development has been proposed at Clarks Pond, which would be a 10-minute walk from the mall, he noted.
“The national economy is doing well, as is the greater Portland economy,” Reny said, adding the city is in the midst of a business expansion cycle.
The Tru by Hilton hotel, at 369 Maine Mall Road, is one of the new businesses that has opened in the western section of South Portland, an area that produces about $9.1 million in tax revenue for the city.