The Bulletin Board

Councilors approve marketing contract for former Lakes Region prison property

By: - October 27, 2021 3:05 pm
Building on the grounds of former Lakes Region prison

The Executive Council approved a state Department of Administrative Services request to contract with CBRE, a global brokerage firm, to market the Laconia property. (Alan MacRae | New Hampshire Bulletin)

The state got the go-ahead Wednesday to start the process of selling the 220-acre former Lakes Region prison property under an unusual arrangement that bypasses typical state review and leaves decisions with the five-member Executive Council. And the two tenants on the site – the state’s backup 911 call center and Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid – may no longer need to worry about their future.

Councilors approved a state Department of Administrative Services request to contract with CBRE, a global brokerage firm, to market the property for redevelopment. If a buyer comes forward, the council will have to approve a sales agreement. 

In the meantime, the council adopted a nonbinding request from Councilor Joe Kenney that regional planning and Laconia city officials be consulted and kept up to date on the sale and development of property. Kenney also asked that the city’s sports complex adjacent to the grounds be protected. Kenney said after talking with the CBRE’s broker handling the property, he felt confident the firm would work with all stakeholders. 

Councilor Cinde Warmington added a request that public access to Ahern State Park, which sits on the other side of the campus, also be protected. 

The campus, which overlooks Lake Winnisquam and Opechee Bay, has few buildings still in good repair. Two of those are being rented by the state for its backup 911 call center and Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid, which provides emergency fire and EMS dispatch for 35 towns in the Lakes Region. Chief Jon Goldman has expressed concern that relocating would cost those towns at least $7 million. 

Department of Safety Commissioner Robert Quinn said Wednesday the state has found a site less than a mile away that could house both agencies. The state has not said how it envisions relocation costs being paid.

The property won’t be an easy sell partly because the demolition work is significant; the state has tried and failed to sell it previously. In its request for bids, Administrative Services acknowledged that the investment required of anyone who buys the property is so significant that the state might collect “close to zero dollars” in a sale.

The council tabled the contract at its last meeting to give city officials time to share their concerns with the department, which include fears a buyer will develop only the best acreage along the road and fail to develop the rest. They’d like to see housing and medical services on the site.  

Gov. Chris Sununu, who succeeded in getting permission from the Legislature to sell the land without time-consuming state review, urged councilors to approve it Wednesday, saying putting it in a private developer’s hands will generate property-tax income for the city. 

CBRE will be paid at least $100,000 for its marketing work and possibly more if the property sells; the state will pay a flat fee of $50,000 and an additional $50,000 or 5 percent of the sale price, whichever is larger. 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.