Former Laconia State School Land For Sale Again; Developer Under Investigation

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Aerial view of the former Laconia State School.


LACONIA – While there are fewer than 4,000 properties for sale in New Hampshire now, one big parcel just came back on the market Tuesday.

And the former Laconia State School property is a total fixer upper with a history and now an investigation into the woman who won the $21.5 million bid to develop it, but failed to come up with the money by Monday’s deadline after three extensions.

Gov. Chris Sununu announced Tuesday that 216.9 acres in Laconia, “a former state institutional campus” with nothing really habitable, is for sale, sandwiched between two beautiful lakes.

It is, as the listing states an “as is” sale.

Sununu made it sound exciting in a news release – “Back on the Market!” – but critics say it appears to be lack of due diligence on the state’s part when it accepted the $21.5 million bid 16 months ago from Robynne Alexander’s Legacy at Laconia.

Court records filed April 19 show Alexander has been under investigation since late 2023 by the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation, which is under Secretary of State David Scanlan’s office.

On Jan. 17, the bureau subpoenaed documents and testimony from Alexander and she has not complied, according to a petition Scanlan filed last Friday in Hillsborough Superior Court North seeking to enforce the subpoena.

“To date, Alexander has failed to comply with the subpoena and provide the bureau with any responsive documents,” the petition states.

In late January, Alexander left a voice message with the bureau.

“The Bureau returned her call the following Monday on January 29, 2024, and, when asked, stated that the subpoena was part of an ongoing investigation into Alexander’s previous securities activity,” the petition said.

Scanlan’s spokesman said Tuesday there would be no further information released because it is an ongoing investigation. The bureau is charged with regulating the purchase and sale of securities in New Hampshire.

Scott Tranchemontagne emailed a comment from Alexander that didn’t address the court petition:

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work on this important project for the people of Laconia and the State of New Hampshire.  We offered an ambitious mixed-use plan to help address the critical need for new housing and create a new lakes region destination while revitalizing a severely dilapidated property,” Alexander said.

“Because of the site’s size and history, many issues arose that could not be foreseen.  Unfortunately, delays occurred, and markets changed significantly from when the agreement was approved in December 2022.  This made it extremely difficult to secure the necessary funding.

“While we were not successful in bringing the project to fruition, we are very proud of our talented team’s hard work and determination.  We thank the State and the city of Laconia for their professionalism and perseverance as we have worked together on this important project,” Alexander said.

The court has scheduled a hearing on the petition to enforce Alexander’s subpoena on May 10.

Two-Year Delay

Critics say Sununu actually delayed development of the property by two years when he pushed through a law in 2021 giving himself and the Executive Council sole authority to sell the property.

That was after the Lakefront Development Commission spent several years working to identify what was needed and prepare the property for sale. That work stopped when Sununu took over the sale, but he acknowledged its work in Tuesday’s news release.

“The hard work has already been done to prepare the property for sale. I remain optimistic that another buyer will see the opportunity, and when they come knocking, we stand ready to move quickly,” Sununu said.

The state has been actively moving toward redevelopment of the property following years of work by the Lakeshore Redevelopment Commission, the release said, adding “a promising development had done more than a year’s worth of work and coordination with the state and city before the previous buyer was unable to fulfill the terms of the sales agreement.”

It was no secret that the property needed many millions of dollars worth of work to get it in shape for development to remove the buildings full of asbestos, and get it to a point where there was infrastructure to support redevelopment.

Location, location

Located at 1 Right Way Path, where it once served as the housing unit for the state’s developmentally disabled and then as a medium security prison, the tract was to have been developed into more than 1,000 units of housing.

The state of New Hampshire’s Department of Administrative Services has hired CBRE, Inc., in partnership with The Boulos Company (650 Elm Street, Suite 102, Manchester, NH 03101 NH Lic. No. 062614) to again market the parcel.

When it last went out to be sold there were a handful of bidders, including one who wanted for free.

And the second highest bidder at $12.5 million was the Hawthorne Development Corp. and former Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes, who is listed as of counsel with the Shaheen and Gordon law firm, said he is working with Hawthorne.

“Our team will be reviewing all the available information. The intention is to participate in the new round of bidding,” Hodes said.

This will be a fee simple interest sale. There is no deadline yet to make offers to purchase and redevelop the property.

The state Department of Administrative Services “will review and evaluate offers on an ongoing basis. DAS may seek to engage directly with one or more interested parties for further discussion of their submitted offers, qualifications, and development visions for the Property” and it reserves the right to accept (or reject) any or all offers and to terminate the marketing of the Property at any time, according to the offer website.

Sununu’s news release said: Interested parties are being encouraged to visit the website and engage through the deal room. A copy of the formal offering memorandum can be found here or on the offer website

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