Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By Leslie Bridgers firstname.lastname@example.org
WINDHAM — Much has changed since 2007, when developer Erik Heyland first proposed building a 74-room hotel on Route 302.
A proposed 74-room hotel on Route 302 in Windham would be the largest hotel in the area.
Source: Heyland Development
The economy tanked, then began to improve. Windham adopted design standards for the area and started making other plans to upgrade its downtown.
But the hotel proposal that Heyland recently submitted to the town is exactly the same as the old one -- a 74-room hotel, plus a separate 9,000-square-foot building for office and retail space.
The Windham Planning Board began reviewing Heyland's application Monday to determine whether it fits with the town's updated vision, which includes making the area more pedestrian-friendly, improving traffic flow and reducing the number of curb cuts along the busy corridor.
Ideas broached by Planning Board members Monday included a center left-turn lane for drivers traveling south on Route 302, a hotel entrance on Enterprise Drive and sidewalks connecting the hotel to nearby shops.
Board members said Monday that, in general, they support the hotel project. The Sebago lakes region has long been in need of a hotel, according to Windham officials and others.
"But we're not going to rubber stamp it," said Planning Board member James Hanscom.
The town approved Heyland's original plans in 2007. Construction was held up pending approval from the state Department of Transportation, which was working on plans for improving Route 302, including the portion in front of the proposed hotel, which would be located across from Seacoast Fun Park.
Heyland and the DOT reached an agreement in 2010 for the developer to put money in an escrow account to help pay for those future improvements. But by that time, the economy was weak and "the banking business wasn't favorable," Heyland said Monday. So he didn't build the project, and its approvals expired.
Since then, Heyland has been working to secure financing and now says he has a local bank -- and a hotel chain -- on board.
He wouldn't name the bank or the chain, other than to say it falls under the umbrella of Choice Hotels, which franchises Clarion, Econo Lodge and other brands.
He plans to build the hotel in phases, starting with 50 rooms and expanding to 74 within a couple of years, so there's "a little bit less risk," he said.
Heyland said he hopes to start construction in March and expects the hotel to open the following winter. He has no timetable for starting construction on the retail or office building.
The board will continue its review of the project in October, when it plans to hold a public hearing. The project would also require approvals from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: email@example.com