SOUTH PORTLAND — A proposed 98-room, four-story hotel on Maine Mall Road would be the first in the state under the new Tru by Hilton brand.

The $8.5 million hotel, aimed at millennials and other travelers looking for simplified, low-cost accommodations, is being proposed by Florida-based hotelier Joe VanWhy, who also owns and operates the adjacent Doubletree by Hilton Hotel across from the Maine Mall.

VanWhy’s goal is to break ground sometime this summer and open in August 2017, he said in application materials provided to the Planning Department on May 6.

In his application, VanWhy also requested initial Planning Board review of his project at the meeting scheduled for June 14.

Stephen Puleo, the city’s community planner, this week said the project would require a subdivision amendment, as well as approval of a new site plan and parking plan.

Puleo said another development, Maine’s first CarMax auto dealership, is also scheduled to break ground on Maine Mall Road this summer. The dealership would be on the other side of the Doubletree, on a vacant lot previously occupied by the Maine Mall Cinema 7.

VanWhy is proposing to construct the new, 48,000-square-foot hotel on an undeveloped lot next to the the twin towers of the Doubletree Hotel at 363 Maine Mall Road.

The city has already approved the parcel for a 9,900-square-foot retail development. The site has all the necessary infrastructure, including access to power and water, Puleo said.

VanWhy on Tuesday said he wants to build the state’s first Tru by Hilton because of the “extreme success” of the Doubletree. The goal, he said is to build “the first hotel in Maine to specifically target millennials.”

VanWhy is the sole owner of the full-service Doubletree Hotel and will also be the sole owner of the Tru by Hilton, which will be managed by his hotel management company, InnDeavorDevelopment Corp.

Although he is based in Florida, VanWhy has been a major player in the hotel industry in Maine for the past 25 years. He is a past owner of the Eastland Hotel in downtown Portland and the Hampton Inn in Saco. He also owns and operates several hotels nationally.

In addition to the Doubletree, VanWhy is the developer behind the Chipotle and Cracker Barrel restaurants on Maine Mall Road.

The Tru by Hilton brand was launched in mid-January, according to a company press release, and the first Tru hotel in the United States is now under construction in Georgia.

The goal of the new brand, according to Hilton, is to attract “those traveling on a budget (who are) looking for value (and only) want the basics.” The hotels will feature an optional automated check-in process, digital keys, and small rooms with minimal furnishings.

The Tru by Hilton Hotel planned in South Portland will be based on this concept.

A sketch of the typical Tru by Hilton lobby.

filed under: