Laconia State School: the next Pease Tradeport?

May 03, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

The Laconia State School opened in 1901 as an institution for children with developmental disabilities. A federal class action lawsuit closed the institution in 1991. After that the property became a state prison, but the Department of Corrections stopped operations in 2009 to save money. Part of the property is leased by the city of Laconia, but most of the property, about 200 acres, sits unused.

Maintaining the vacant Laconia State School costs the state $386,000 year.

The state has tried to sell the property to Laconia and Belknap County, without success. Sen. Jeanie Forrester briefly supported turning the property into a drug treatment facility, but withdrew her proposal after local opposition. 

A large obstacle to selling the property are the environmental hazards, such as lead paint and asbestos, which contaminate many of the buildings.

The Executive Council established a committee last year to study how to market the property for sale. This year the Legislature is considering a bill to create its own, similar committee. 

On Tuesday, May 2 Senate President Chuck Morse introduced a new approach: establishing a commission of eight appointees, including business and real estate experts, with a mission of redeveloping the property.

“The former Pease Development Authority Commission that helped to redevelop and grow the seacoast’s economy served as the model for the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission outlined in this legislation,” said Morse.

The Pease Development Authority was tasked with transforming the closed Pease Airforce Base into a business park. According to one study, the Pease redevelopment created 31,000 jobs on the seacoast from 1991 through 2013. 

Like the Laconia State School, Pease had hazardous waste sites. The area is still dealing with PFOA water contamination from Air Force operations.

The final cost of redeveloping the Laconia State School cannot be estimated at such an early stage. The price tag for the commission itself is $365,000.

Do you support the state redeveloping the Laconia State School? Share your opinion in the comments below.


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