A steel frame has been erected for a 59-foot-tall building in the Lakeport Landing area. The structure, near United Baptist Church, will help fill a rising need for boat storage. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)
Businesses see growth in boat sales and storage around Lakes Region
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The success of the boat sales and storage industry can be seen in a 100,000-cubic-foot building taking shape at Lakeport Landing Marina.
Workers have constructed the steel frame of a structure that, at 59 feet tall, is only 1 foot shorter than the allowable height in the commercial district. It will replace and be about 25 feet taller than a wooden boat storage building that used to occupy the site.
City Manager Scott Myers said there appears to be a shortage of boat storage facilities in a region with all kinds of access to the water.
“There is a growing demand,” he said. “People prefer to have indoor storage.”
When the weather turns cold, people need to get their boats off the water, but even during the season, many people place their boats in storage when they are not in use.
Lakeport Landing also sells boats, of course, and is making plans for a sparkling new showroom at the old Lakeport Fire Station. It purchased the property from the city last month for $385,000, down from an original purchase offer of $475,000. The price was reduced because of issues that surfaced at the site, including asbestos tiles, lead paint and an underground oil tank, Myers said.
An L-shaped glass-enclosed display space will wrap around the front and west side of the fire station. The station itself will be visible through the glass and will house office and storage space and an area commemorating its history.
Meanwhile, Irwin Marine plans to purchase for about $500,000 other city-owned property nearby, where Lakeport Landing now has its showroom. Lakeport Landing has been using the property under a long-term lease, and Irwin was the winning bidder to buy the land when the lease’s expiration neared.
Irwin Marine's main facilities are along Union Avenue, but the company is in an expansion mode.
Irwin Marine President Bruce Wright said it has plans to enlarge its boat storage facilities with projects on Blaisdell Avenue on the border of Laconia and Gilford. He said the company already has the ability to store 2,200 boats at various locations across the state.
“The business is steadily increasing,” he said. “The economy is part of it, and we do a good job with our storage and service programs. We are in a growth phase at this point.”
Boat sales have been trending up statewide and nationwide.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the U.S. boating industry is seeing some of its highest sales in nearly a decade. Unit sales of new powerboats increased 6 percent in 2016, reaching 247,800 boats sold, and are expected to increase an additional 6 percent in 2017.
“Economic factors, including an improving housing market, higher employment, strong consumer confidence, and growing disposable income, are creating a golden age for the country’s recreational boating industry,” said Thom Dammrich, the association’s president.
Total expenditures on powerboats, engines, trailers and accessories in New Hampshire reached $175.4 million in 2016, compared to $109 million in 2012.
The boating community is also front and center in the latest real estate trend in the area, high-priced luxury condominiums that offer views of the water and slips for boats.
Four of these condos are going in on what used to be the parking lot for a Burger King on Union Avenue. The restaurant closed and its building is now used by Watermark Marine. Spinnaker Cove Yacht Club is adjacent to the project site, which is also near a Paugus Bay Marina showroom.
Two miles north along the bay shore, developers purchased a 1950s-era motel on 3.2 acres of land and knocked it down to make way for 16 duplex town homes priced at about $600,000 each. A beach and boat slips were selling points for those who snapped up the units at Christmas Island.