GILFORD — The town and a Portsmouth commercial real estate developer got some good news last week when the N.H. Department of Transportation agreed to sell a parcel of land off Lake Shore Road (Rte. 11) for a second entrance to Gilford Airport Plaza, known locally as the home of Gilford Cinemas 8.
The portion of land is directly opposite the north exit from the Laconia Bypass onto Rte. 11 and there is already a traffic light used to manage left-hand turns.
WJP Development, LLC of Portsmouth plans to purchase and rehab the 62,000-square-foot shopping center — which it refers to as Gilford Commons — but the project almost fell through in December of 2014 when the DOT initially refused to allow them to build a second entrance. Right now, the only way in or out of the property is through a single entrance off Old Lake Shore Road, across from the Airport Country Store.
When Gilford Town Administrator Scott Dunn apprised the Selectboard about the DOT's original decision, selectmen expressed dismay and anger, saying the proposed development at that site is exactly what the town needs and wants. They asked Dunn to contact the DOT and work with local engineer Steve Smith — who is engineering the project — to intervene.
"We are very excited, we love that property," said Stuart Scharff, one of the principals of WJP Development, during an interview with The Daily Sun on Tuesday. "It's in a nice spot."
Scharff said the building was constructed as a Globe Department Store in either the late 1960s or the early 1970s. "The (Globe) had a good sense of location," he said.
He said that the town of Gilford was extremely helpful in securing the desired DOT permission for the new entrance and he is excited about bringing some stores and restaurants to the area. He noted that the Cinema 8 is planning on doing an upgrade on the inside while his company works on the outside.
Scharff said the company bought the property in June.
The final hurdle is for the governor and Executive Council to agree to sell the property for the new entrance to WJP for $36,100, which included an administrative fee of $1,100.
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