State School marketing effort advances, but no offer in sight

‘Interested parties’ have made inquiries, says Administrative Services commissioner

The marketing of the Laconia State School property has generated significant interest, but a state official expects it will be at least a few months before they see any indication of the level of interest that would signal the possibility of a serious offer.

“It’s one thing to be interested. It’s another to be very interested,” said Commissioner Charlie Arlinghaus, who heads the state Department of Administrative Services that has charge of finding a buyer who would develop the largely vacant complex which for decades was the state’s institution for people with developmental disabilities.

Last October the Executive Council awarded a contract to international commercial real estate broker CBRE to market the 214-acre property.

Arlinghaus said that his office is in contact with the broker about the Laconia property at least once a week, and that “interested parties” have met with him and his staff. Some have asked to be shown around the property, he said.

“There have been conversations with a number of people who are interested,” Arlinghaus said. “But I don’t expect to see anything remotely resembling an offer anytime soon.”

He said it might be possible that his agency might receive the “outlines of a proposal” as soon as one to three months from now, but there was no certainty of that.

Arlinghaus said that the state is poised to enter into a land swap with the city of Laconia in order to relocate the E-911 and the Lakes Region Mutual Aid dispatch center was unrelated to the marketing effort.

“We’re doing that now,” he said, “because there is no reason not to.”

The emergency call centers are currently located in an area of the old State School complex, close to Route 106.

The Laconia City Council last week approved a land swap proposed by the state that calls for the state to resume ownership of a seven-acre parcel diagonally across from Robbie Mills Field in exchange for the city getting a 10-acre plot at the intersection of Old North Main Street and Parade Road. The swap still needs to be approved by the Executive Council.

After the State School closed in 1993, part of the complex was then converted into a state prison, which closed in 2009. Since then, almost all of the complex has been unoccupied and most of the buildings show signs of deterioration.

In putting the complex up for sale the state has made clear that the complex is being offered “as-is, with all its faults.”

Arlinghaus acknowledged that stipulation will narrow the field of interested buyers, but he said the property will attract “a different kind of investor,” one with experience in dealing with “complicated projects.”

He said a benefit for interested buyers is the information and studies already done on the property by the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission.

Since 2018, the panel has been working to prepare the property for marketing to one or more private developers. The commission’s work has included preparing a master plan, doing environmental assessments to determine whether hazardous materials are present, and a survey of wetlands on the site.

Whenever the state receives an formal offer for the property the matter would be referred to the Executive Council which alone has the authority to sell state property.

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