By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
LACONIA – The former Lakes Region Facility has a potential buyer who plans to create a “self-sustaining village” on its 220 acres off Route 106, including 1,300 units of mixed-use housing for all ages and incomes, a conference center, 200,000 square feet of retail and commercial use and a plan that would allow for 50 percent of the land to remain open space.
Selected from four proposals, the New Hampshire Executive Council will be considering a purchase and sales agreement on the property as early as November, said Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, whose District 1 includes the city of Laconia.
He said neither the price nor the identity of the buyer is yet public.
“The city of Laconia is excited and anxious to move the process forward in a positive direction with the redevelopment of the site,” said Kenney who attended a public presentation to the city on Oct. 19.
The presentation can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/Qc0y4asGMH4.
“Audience members felt good about the open concept to the property, the protection of Ahern Park, restoration of some of the historic buildings, the mixed-use purpose, housing, and commercial use, etc.,” Kenney added.
The Governor and Council approved a land swap recently which will allow the Lakes Region 911, which is currently housed on the property, to have a place to go in the future just off the central grounds.
Administrative Services Commissioner Charlie Arlinghaus told the mayor and city councilors that the selected proposal is “wonderful” and “beyond many of our dreams.”
He gave credit to the Lake Shore Redevelopment Authority, formed in 2017 and chaired by George Bald, former commissioner of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development, noting that it looked at the “knowns and unknowns” of the property which served as an institution for the developmentally disabled for much of the past century.
While beautiful with open fields and views of Lake Opechee and the mountains in Belknap County, it has been largely left to decay since its time as the Laconia State School.
Arlinghaus said he saw the city and the state, which owns the land, as “one entity” working for the people and that the goal is to make the land a more productive and profitable part of the city.
Currently, the city receives no taxes on the land. But that would change significantly under this plan.
The presentation was given by the brokerage firm CBRE of Manchester, which was hired by the state to market the tract. Arlinghaus said he would not talk about financials because that was part of the negotiation process at this point.
The vision includes single-family homes, condos, multi-unit facilities, and at least 120 units of “workforce housing,” an urgent care facility, a daycare center, and a special “world-class” resort and conference center in addition to recreation facilities. Many of the 35 existing, mostly brick structures on the property would be reused.
Dean Trefethen, the city planning director, spoke about the various land use, zoning, boundary lines, and the various permits a developer would need to work with the city to make its vision a reality.
“The technical advisory committee (which I have been a part of) has agreed on a proposal (out of four) that will be released at a future Governor and Council meeting for the Council to accept or decline. The Council will have a second vote to approve the sale and transfer of the land to the new developer. The second vote would happen in a couple of months. So, having a second vote in January would be desirable,” said Kenney.
The acceptance of the proposal could happen as early as November, he said.
“Much credit and work goes to the Lakes Shore Redevelopment Commission and all the work they did to better explain to bidders the ins and outs of the property, from historical assessment, environmental studies, and infrastructure inventories,” he said.
The name of the bidder and the amount of the proposal will not be discussed until later when the Executive Council votes on it, he said but it will become public.
For more information and a link to public comment visit https://www.laconianh.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=363