Important First Step for Former Laconia State School Sale On Council Agenda March 13

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Paula Tracy photo

The Dwinell building at the former Laconia State School.


LACONIA – A “necessary first step” for the state to close on the sale of the 220-acre former Laconia State School is on the Executive Council agenda for Wednesday, hours before the closing is scheduled to occur between the state and a Manchester developer for $21.5 million.

There is a request on the agenda to approve a lease between Legacy at Laconia LLC, the developer, and the state for two years at the Dwinell Building on the property for about $206,000 to continue to operate the E-911 dispatch center and Lakes Region Fire Mutual Aid. 

“I’m really excited,” said Executive Councilor Joe Kenney Friday afternoon when he received a copy of the meeting agenda for March 13. “It gives me a positive sense we are moving to finalize this.”

He said the lease is what he was looking for because it is “the first step” needed before closing.

The two organizations are going to get a new building on adjacent property but it must be built first, thus the need for up to a two years lease, he said.

A copy of the lease, which needs to be approved by the council, is here

If it was not on the agenda, Kenney said it was not likely that the deal was going to go forward as many have theorized due to the length of time it has taken for parties to come to the table. Closing on the property has been postponed several times.

It has been 16 months since the developer agreed to buy the tract for a major housing and retail development on the northern side of the Lake City, overlooking Lake Opechee on Parade Road.

Charlie Arlinghaus, state commissioner for Administrative Services told the council that the closing is set for a Manchester law firm on the afternoon of March 13 and when Kenney saw him earlier this week, he told him things were still “looking good.”

On Dec. 21, 2022, the state’s Executive Council voted 3-2 to enter a purchase and sales agreement to sell the former Laconia State School property to Legacy at Laconia LLC for $21.5 million.

Voting to oppose the sale were Executive Councilors Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, and David Wheeler, R-Milford.

The plan is to build more than 1,000 units of housing, a hotel and conference center, and retail space.

Kenney said he also has assurances from the developer that there will be an interpretive center on the property to describe how the state used it, essentially to warehouse developmentally disabled people who often lived and died there over a majority of the 1900s.

Estimates are that developers might spend as much as $500 million on developing the project.

In addition to serving as a residential home for the developmentally disabled, in the 1990s it was also used as a medium-security prison.

Mayor Andrew Hosmer and Kirk Beattie, city manager, have been working with the developer and the state. The prime developer is Robynne Alexander.

Arlinghaus told Gov. Chris Sununu and the council that water rights on the Winnipesaukee River Basin is “sort of a complicated thing” as has been the relocation of a snowmobile trail.

Paula Tracy is a senior writer at and has worked as a reporter for 30 years.

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