LACONIA — As many as 90 parking spaces could be created at a city park to serve a revitalized Lakeport under a proposal to be discussed by the City Council on Monday night.
A memo from Councilor David Bownes and City Manager Scott Myers said commercial, retail, office and residential development being discussed for the area near the intersection of Union Avenue and Elm Street would increase demand for parking spaces for employees, customers, and residents.
Sanborn Park is a block southeast of that intersection and the Lakeport Opera House, which has been purchased by businessman Scott Everett, who intends to lease the ground floor to The Laconia Daily Sun. The newspaper is planning to move from its current leased location at 1127 Union Avenue because the building is being sold.
Everett also owns several properties northwest of the intersection and is considering broad redevelopment plans.
“One property owner made an informal inquiry with the City with regard to using the current green area of Sanborn Park as one component of a parking solution,” the memo stated. “The entirety of Sanborn Park, including the playground, basketball court and green area, encompasses about 1.6 acres.
“A little less than half of that acreage is made up of the playground/court area. The remaining .85 acres of green space is almost square in shape, and is level. Depending on a final design layout, it would be estimated that this acreage could accommodate approximately 90 parking spaces.”
The memo goes on to state that, if property owners want to request the green space for additional parking, “the City may be well served by entering into a long-term lease, public/private partnership or other agreement for the property with the owners responsible for paying for the improvements and upkeep.”
Bownes said in an interview Friday that the purpose of the memo is to start a City Council discussion and to set the stage for a later public hearing that would include interested parties, including business owners.
The Opera House, which was built in 1881, has been mostly vacant for decades. It is painted white and its windows are boarded up.
“It is widely known that several key properties have changed hands in the Lakeport Square area over the past two years,” the memo states.
“Irwin Marine has expanded their operations into an existing building while Lakeport Landing Marina has increased their footprint and redeveloped the former fire station parcel into a state-of-the-art showroom.
“Additional underutilized and/or vacant buildings have recently changed hands, both on Union Avenue and Elm Street in Lakeport Square. Initial conversations with the owners indicate that there is the potential for significant investment in these properties.”
Adjacent to the Opera House is a former restaurant that is being transformed by a successful rock band, Recycled Percussion, into a “Chaos and Kindness” storefront.
They have a television show of the same name. The project is aimed at giving people experiences to show them that they can shape their future to be better than their present.