Balsams developers seek different type of investors
Coos planners vote to extend vesting period to 2025
The developer of the long-awaited rebirth of the Balsams resort in Dixville has told the Coos County Planning Board that it is seeking new sources of investment in the midst of Covid-19.
According to the Berlin Sun, Les Otten of Dixville Capital LLC told the board said the pandemic has forced it to shift attention away from traditional resort and hospitality investors. It is focusing on attract what are known as ESG investors, which consider environmental, social and governance factors in analyzing am investment.
Otten said five investors are currently conducting due diligence on the Balsams project and two of them are actively examining their permits and plans.
Meanwhile, Otten said Dixville Capital has spent more than $11 million on the project to restore the former ski and vacation resort.
That money has gone to permitting, architectural design, project engineering, legal fees and an extensive sales and marketing efforts. The figure does not include land acquisition costs, he said.
“While driving by the Balsams it may not always be apparent that work remains underway or that meaningful dollars continue to be spent but I want to assure you that this is continuing,” Otten told the planning board.
Dixville Capital appeared before the board seeking to amend the project’s conditional Planned Unit Development permit for Phase I to expand the vesting period by five years. Phase I calls for redevelopment of the Hampshire and Dix Houses and expansion of the ski area. The current vesting period was set to expire Jan. 18, 2021.
After discussion, the board voted to extend the vesting period by four years.
‘Confident as I can rationally be’
Before the vote, Otten said that, despite the drawn-out development process – the Balsams was closed in 2011 and plans to redevelop emerged soon after – “I’m as confident as I can rationally be looking at what we’ve had to deal with, the setbacks that we’ve had. But I want to assure you that I remain committed to seeing the project forward,” he said.
Otten said Dixville Capital was making great progress at the beginning of the year on financing, working with some well-known investment banking firms out of New York that focus on the hospitality industry. When COVID hit, however, he said all discussions completely ceased as the hospitality sector came to a halt.
Otten said investors are now waiting to see what hotel properties won’t make it with an eye toward picking up such properties for pennies on the dollar rather than invest in new resorts. He said Dixville Capital was forced to step back and to consider its options including whether it was time to abandon the project.
Otten said is now working with Douglas Foy, former head of the Conservation Law Foundation who now chair of Renew Energy Partners, which specializes in helping with funding, installing and managing energy efficiency and on-site clean power generation.
From February to June, Otten said they worked with Renew Energy to rework plans to reduce the Balsams’ carbon footprint and allow it to operate totally on renewable energy, which would be supplied by Renew Energy.