Land Trust asks county to sponsor $250k grant application for riverfront project in Laconia

LACONIA — The Laconia Area Community Land Trust Wednesday morning asked the Belknap County Commissioners for their sponsorship of a $250,00 Community Development Block Grant application for a 32-unit workforce housing development which will be built next to the Winnipesaukee River in downtown Laconia.
Linda Harvey, executive director of the trust, said the $7.4 million River's Edge project has a $500,000 gap in its funding and the county's support would help bridge that shortfall. The project is ready to go out to bid and only needs to complete its financing in order to move ahead.
The project would be built on a 1.85 acre site bordered by Union Avenue, Arch Street and the Winnipesaukee River which currently is occupied by two abandoned and blighted warehouse buildings formerly used by F.W. Webb, according to Harvey.
Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) wondered why the LACLT hadn't gone to the city of Laconia for its grant sponsorship and Harvey said that the trust hadn't anticipated the shortfall.
''We didn't think we'd need them,'' she said, adding that the city is participating in other ways, including its Riverwalk project, which will pass through the site, and by waiving 80 percent of the impact fees for the project.
Harvey said and LACLT was approached by Laconia City Planner Shanna Saunders last year about redeveloping the site and that it's plan for a three-story elevator-eqipped building has already been approved by the city's planning board.
Plans call demolition of the structurally unsound warehouse buildings and construction of a three-story building which would have parking next to Arch Street and also on Union Avenue, where only the top floor of the project will be visible to passing motorists.
Harvey said the N.H. Housing Finance Authority has already approved financing for Low Income Housing Tax Credits and capital subsidy funds and there is also a commitment of funds from NeighborWorks America.
LACLT is providing an easement to the city for public river walk, which will be constructed and maintained by the city.
The organization is looking at purchasing electricity produced at the nearby Avery Dam hydro station as well as green innovations such as geothermal energy for heating and air conditioning.
She said that an additional benefit of the project will be the removal of hazardous waste from the site.
County commissioners agreed to hold a public hearing on the request at their next meeting on January 21, which will enable LACLT to apply for the grant before the January 27 deadline.

LACLT manages 252 housing units in five communities in central New Hampshire, including Laconia, Tilton, Belmont, Meredith and Wolfeboro.