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PLAN FOR HOTEL IN DOWNTOWN BERLIN UNVEILED

August 7, 2011 - by Barbara Tetreault, Berlin Daily Sun

BERLIN ?An 80 to 90-room Hampton Inn hotel may be in the downtown�s immediate future, fulfilling one of the city�s long identified needs.

Chris Thompson, president of Parallax Partners, a Lewiston, Maine-based hotel development company met with the city council Monday night to outline his plans to build a hotel in downtown Berlin.

While Thompson said the just cleared Rite Aid property across from the Albert Theater is the preferred site, his company has negotiated an option to purchase the city-owned parking lot at the corner of Cole and Mason Street as an alternate location. The council Monday unanimously approved the option to sell the city lot to Parallax for $125,000. The initial option period will run for nine months, with Parallax required to make a $1,000 down payment. The option can be extended another two years with an additional $1,000 payment.

Under the terms of the option agreement, Parallax now has 30 days to commission a market feasibility study for a hotel in the downtown. The first phase of the study must be completed within 180 days.

Thompson said his company has been looking at the Rite Aid property for three years. He said they have discussed the project with Hampton Inn, which he said is �on board with the idea?

Along with the hotel, he said Parallax would include 5,000 square feet of space for a restaurant or retail use. He said they also want sufficient parking to allow for ATV trailers to accommodate visitors to the Jericho Mountain ATV Park.

Thompson said the hotel would create 21 jobs ?about half of those would be full-time positions. He said the hotel could be expanded to meet future needs. Thompson said his company has developed hotels in Maine and New Hampshire including a Hampton Inn in Exeter, a Sheraton Hotel in Portsmouth, a Hilton Inn in Auburn, Maine, and is currently working on a 93-room Hampton Inn in Lewiston and a mixed-use development in Portland.

Mayor Paul Grenier told Thompson the city is happy with Parallax�s proposal and believes a hotel would be a nice cornerstone for the downtown. In the option agreement, the city commits to working with Parallax to make the project feasible, including helping to secure grants and tax increment financing.

The 37-year old Thompson was recently named one of Maine�s top 40 leaders under the age of 40 by the Portland Press Herald. He was cited for his work to redevelop part of Portland�s waterfront and for projects in Lewiston and Portsmouth.

The ATV festival featured a new event this year that was designed by fellow club member John Higgins from Raymond, NH. John is a member of the WMRR snowmobile club and the Andtroscoggin Valley ATV club (both clubs are located in Berlin) and he has worked on dozens of projects for these clubs over the years. He is also an active volunteer with snowmobile and ATV clubs in central New Hampshire.

This year John came up with an idea to create an obstacle course for the kids to teach them the basics of handling an ATV in rough terrain. The course was a big hit and will probably become part of the venue in future years. The course consisted of three types of challenges including trees, tires and a see-saw.

Congratulations to John for his ingenuity and work in putting this course together and running it on Saturday.

The log course had a choice of large and small logs that the rider could choose to go over based on their ability and the size of their machine.

The tire course tests the riders ability to hang on while the machine is being tossed from side to side.

The See-saw was the most difficult to master. The easiest thing to do was to drive over it. The hardest thing to do was balance the ATV in the middle.

Ben McLean proved it could be done!

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