By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
RINDGE – Gov. Chris Sununu said he had a meeting with the prospective buyer of the former Laconia State School property recently and has “no question” that the $21.5 million sale will close but there is a delay due to title considerations of about a month and relocation of a snowmobile trail on the property.
Robynne Alexander is principal of Legacy at Laconia LLC, and she has an ambitious plan to redevelop the property, though it has been pared down by about a third from its initial plan for up to 1,900 units, a spokesman for her said this week.
At the Executive Council meeting Wednesday at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, Councilor Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, noted that the Department of Administrative Services was expected to come before the Executive Council in September with the deal to sign.
Sununu said it is understandable that the deal is delayed given that there has been 100 years of ownership by the state but he had a great conversation with the prospective buyer and am “absolutely fully confident it will close.”
Commissioner of Administrative Services Charlie Arlinghaus agreed and said about a month more is needed.
Scott Tranchemontagne, spokesman for the developer said Monday “we are working mutually with the State to finalize some title issues. Not surprising on a piece of property this large and this old. The title issues need to be resolved before we can proceed to closing, but we’re on track.”
While initially the plan was to build 1,900 units of housing the new plans have been scaled back to about 1,260, Tranchemontagne said and may change again due to changing market needs.
He said market research for the needs dictated the change to “right size certain elements,” including a reduction in the number of units for senior citizens.
Arlinghaus told the governor and Executive Council Sept. 6 “we are going to have a contract. I’m certain we are going to have a sale and in terms of time, I am doing my best to, I don’t know if I should say this publicly, kick a bunch of lawyers.”
Both Laconia Mayor Andrew Hosmer and Arlinghaus previously said the process of due diligence was underway with a deadline of September before a purchase and sales agreement between the developer and the state is signed.
Gatsas, who voted against a purchase and sales agreement on Dec. 21, 2022 asked for an update with Legacy at Laconia LLC two weeks ago.
The Manchester-based development group has plans to develop the tract at the corner of Meredith Center Road and Parade Road in Laconia into a housing development complex, hotel and conference center, and retail space.
Estimates are that the group might spend as much as $500 million on developing the project, through a series of phases.
The property includes about 220 acres and is adjacent to Ahearn State Park which will remain.
The governor noted there are some issues that still need to be ironed out related to a park trail for snowmobiling that needs to be relocated.
For a time after the Laconia State School closed, in the early 1990s, it was the site of a medium-security prison and more recently housed a state and local fire and emergency dispatch centers.
Mayor Hosmer and Kirk Beattie, city manager, have been working with the state, and the prime developer Robynne Alexander.