A proposed 98-room, four-story hotel on Maine Mall Road in South Portland would be the first project in Maine under the newly unveiled Tru by Hilton brand.
The new, $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 Hotel.
In the project application materials first provided to the South Portland Planning Department on May 6, VanWhy said the goal would be to break ground sometime this summer and open in August 2017.
In his application, VanWhy also requested initial Planning Board review of his project at the meeting scheduled for June 14.
Stephen Puleo, South Portland’s community planner, said this week the project would require a subdivision amendment, as well as approval of a new site and parking plan.
VanWhy is proposing to construct the new Tru by Hilton on an undeveloped lot next to the Starbucks at 363 Maine Mall Road, which is also next door to the twin towers of the Doubletree Hotel.
The city had initially approved the parcel for a 9,900-square-foot retail development. VanWhy seeks permission to put up a 48,000-square-foot hotel instead. Puleo said the site already has all the necessary infrastructure, including access to power and water.
VanWhy told the Current Tuesday he wants to build the first Tru by Hilton due to the “extreme success” of the Doubletree, which is also a Hilton-brand hotel. The goal, he said is to build “the first hotel in Maine to specifically target millennials.”
VanWhy is the sole owner of the Doubletree and will also be the sole owner of the new 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 the past owner of the Eastland Hotel in downtown Portland and the Hampton Inn in Saco. He also owns and operates a number of hotels nationally.
In addition to the Doubletree, VanWhy is also the developer behind the Chipotle and Cracker Barrell restaurants, also located on Maine Mall Road directly across from the Maine Mall.
Puleo said another new development, a new CarMax auto dealership, is also scheduled to break ground on Maine Mall Road this summer. The dealership would go in on the vacant former movie-theater lot located on the other side of the Doubletree.
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 hotel brand, according to Hilton, is to attract “those traveling on a budget (who are) looking for value (and only) want the basics.” The Tru hotels offer “a back-to-basics experience” with an optional automated check-in process, digital keys and small rooms with minimal furnishings, the press release said.
In the lobby, which Hilton has dubbed, “The Hive,” there is an open reception area that includes four zones, including high-speed WiFi, a fitness center and a built-in market offering single-serve wine and beer, snacks and light meal options open 24/7.
In a press release, Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton Worldwide, said the Tru brand of hotels serves the desire for “a forward-thinking and innovative mid-scale (hotel) with strong value.”
He said more than 100 developers worldwide have already signed on to build new Tru by Hilton hotels and that new Tru hotels are in various stages of approval in cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Portland, Ore.
When announcing the launch of the Tru by Hilton brand in January, Nassetta said the hotels would fill a niche not being served by other hotel chains
“Tru by Hilton addresses a gap in the marketplace by appealing to the youthful mindset demographic, pushing the industry to marry quality and value,” said Jim Holthouser, executive vice president of global brands for Hilton Worldwide. “We’re breaking through the clutter of undistinguished offerings and anticipating the needs of tomorrow’s guests.”
The design of Tru hotels is “easily scalable to fit urban, suburban, highway and airport adjacent locations,” according to the company and it’s one of 13 independent, but complementary hotel brands owned by Hilton.
The first Tru by Hilton brand hotel in Maine, proposed for South Portland, could look like what is depicted here.
This shows the lobby of the new Tru by Hilton brand hotels. The company calls the reception area “The Hive.”