PORTLAND — The developers of a $105 million mixed-used project on Thompson’s Point have reached a franchise agreement with a national hotel company and hope to start construction by the end of this summer.

The group filed a site plan application with the city Tuesday, beginning a formal review process and ending speculation that financial problems had put the project on hold. The project, known as The Forefront at Thompson’s Point, was first proposed a year ago.

“It’s exciting to have things cranking again,” said Chris Thompson, one of the project’s managing partners.

The Portland Planning Board has tentatively scheduled a special workshop for May 1 to discuss the project.

“We are absolutely moving forward with this,” said Carol Morrissette, chair of the Planning Board. “It’s nice to be part of something that can be so big for the community.”

The project would be the largest private development in Maine in recent memory, said Greg Mitchell, Portland’s economic development director.

A key piece of the project would be an 80,000-square-foot event center, with about an acre of floor area for trade shows.

The event center also would serve as a 3,500-seat arena for the Maine Red Claws professional basketball team and other sporting events. It would be attached to a 125-room hotel and a concert hall that would seat as many as 2,200 people.

The project would also include a 730-car parking garage and two office buildings, along with several surface parking lots. The largest office building would be 120,000 square feet.

The project has not changed much since it was first proposed in April 2011. It has been refined, and the configuration of some of the buildings has been modified, Thompson said.

The other managing partners in the project are Jon Jennings and William J. Ryan Jr., two of the major owners of the Red Claws.

Jennings said the hotel would be a “business class” hotel, similar to the Hilton Garden Inn. He declined to name the franchise.

Thompson said the developers have a contract to buy the site when the permitting is completed. He said the developers are negotiating with a company from outside the city to lease the largest office building on the site.

Thompson’s Point is nearly 30 acres and juts out into the Fore River. It was once a rail yard. In recent years, it has had industrial uses, including the storage of tractor trailers.

“It’s a fairly run-down and blighted site,” Mitchell said.

He said the project would serve as a “gateway” to the city because of its proximity to Interstate 295, the Portland Transportation Center and the Portland International Jetport.

In June, the city approved a $31 million, 30-year property tax break for the project, which the developers indicated was needed for the financing package to work.

Some of the money from the project would be earmarked for transit improvements, such as adding a dedicated bus service between the transportation center, the airport and downtown Portland.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]

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