Affordable housing group to renovate decrepit Franklin mill into 45 apartments

FRANKLIN — Mayor Ken Merrifield recalled that last week, not the first time, he was explaining the challenges of rehabilitating derelict buildings downtown to a social studies class at the High School and this week was listening as representatives of CATCH Neighborhood Housing told the City Council of plans to convert the old Riverbend Mill on Memorial Street to 45 apartments.

CATCH, a nonprofit, Concord-based corporation provides housing for individuals and families of low or moderate income in Merrimack County, announced it has entered a purchase and sale agreement to acquire the vacant building and invest $10 million in its renovation and conversion.

"I cannot remember anyone spending this much money in downtown Franklin," said Merrifield. "This is very exciting."

The horseshoe shaped mill building stands in the center of the city, between the Franklin Opera House and Odell Park, and is visible across the Winnipesaukee River from Central Street. The renovation and conversion is expected to take between six and nine months to complete and CATCH expects to begin renting units in 2017. Merrifield said that the rents will be affordable to tenants whose incomes fall within low and high limits. He was especially pleased to learn that CATCH was exploring the prospect of lending preference to tenants engaged in the performing arts.

Merrifield noted that for many years CATCH has expressed an interest in Franklin and in April participated in a design charette — "Franklin for a Lifetime" — focused on revitalizing the city center. He said breathing new life into buildings like the Riverbend Mill is seldom feasible for private developers, but with access to a variety of grants and low-interest loans CATCH can assemble financial packages to undertake such projects.
"We are hoping that this project will spur similar activity on the part of other property owners and investors," Merrifield said.

Proud new owners of Gilford Village Store

GILFORD — For David Fraser and Marlene Minemier purchasing the Gilford Village Store was like coming home to their roots.

The couple, who were successful in real estate and building, wanted to start something different than before, but be involved in something familiar to them — family and community.

"We want to bring this back to be the focal point of the village," Fraser said.

The Gilford Village Store was built in 1936 by Jeremiah Thing, Albert Chase and Benjamin Jewett Jr. according to a Gilford Village Walking Tour published online. Most recently, it's been owned by Norm Soucy who sold a variety of sandwiches, homemade soup and salads.

Fraser and Minemier plan on continuing with most of the above, including pizza, but said they want to add some local touches — like N.H. native wine, local micro-brewery beer and other local products like maple syrup, sauces, marinades jellies and the like.

"We have already had some vendors reach out to us," said Fraser.

The couple plans on staying open and make some small changes as the summer and fall come. During the winter months, they will close and give the store a "100-year face-lift" said Minemier.

She said they'll keep a little bit of the convenience portion but expand their product lines.

"We'll be rolling it out in phases and getting feedback from the local people," she said, noting she wants it to be a "destination" place where people can come in, enjoy a cup of coffee and visit.

"We are not corporate," said Minemier. "We're like Mom and Pop and want to offer a little bit of something for everybody."

The parents of a young daughter, the both said there will be a "Leah's Candy Corner" where she will select items of particular interest to her and other children.

"We've always been entrepreneurial and we wanted our daughter to have a small role in our business.

Both have worked in Concord for a number of years while living in Meredith, but wanted to get back to working in a small town like Gilford.

"We're able to do this because we've been so successful," said Minemier.

"And we want to be part of a community," said Fraser.


CUTLINE: New Gilford Village Store owners David Fraser and Marlene Minemier stand in the eating area of the nearly 200-year-old business. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Laconia Police deal with fake bomb on Academy Street

LACONIA — City police, working with an explosives technician from the N.H. State Police, determined a device found smoking near the intersection of Academy and Pearl streets on Saturday at 9 p.m. was not a bomb.

The device appeared to be a crude, homemade device made from three cylindrical objects duct-taped together.

It was viewed by a robot with a camera and later destroyed.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252.