Twin State Owner Mum on Iron Horse Park Anchor
Developer Set To Appear Before Planning Board In September
Warren “Bud” Ames, left, and his son Seth, right, look over site plans for Twin State Sand and Gravel in West Lebanon on Friday. Twin State got preliminary approval to move its headquarters about 300 feet to accommodate a roadway that will run through the area as part of the Iron Horse development. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
At the Twin State Sand and Gravel quarry in Hartland, Seth Ames stands atop about 100 years of material, by his estimate, for making crushed stone for construction and paving applications. Ames’ great-grandfather started the business in 1947 to supply stone for the building of the Wilder Dam, and his father, Warren “Bud” Ames, is president of the company. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
A sign found when the original Twin State Sand and Gravel building was demolished sits in the window of of the business’s current office along with a permit application notice for the building to be moved. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Twin State Sand and Gravel has moved its processing systems from its headquarters in West Lebanon to its quarry in Hartland. Twin State can now crush and sort up to 300 tons of rock an hour without having to truck the raw material to West Lebanon for processing. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
West Lebanon — Warren “Bud” Ames has heard a lot of rumors lately, but he takes them with a grain of salt.
For such a polite, quiet and unassuming guy, Ames, who is the co-owner of Twin State Sand and Gravel Co. and Blaktop Inc., has been in the news a lot recently as the moving force behind some of the biggest developments in the Upper Valley, and that has opened up his business to much public speculation.
In recent weeks, he’s heard it on good authority that his Iron Horse Park development will be the future home of a Target store or a Lowe’s or some other giant retailer, or that he’s selling his business to rival Pike Industries, or that he’s shutting down all together.
“I just laugh,” Ames said last week. “I’ve even had people come up to me and say they heard it from a reliable source that so-and-so is moving in. I tell them that I’m the property owner, and I don’t even know who it is.”
Ames and his partner, Stuart Close, are in the final stages of negotiation with a developer to buy Iron Horse Park — a 92-acre mixed use development in West Lebanon that has been approved for a 150,000-square-foot retail box store. The developer will provide the anchor tenant.
“He’s apparently got somebody lined up, but he’s not saying who it is, even to me. I really don’t know,” Ames said.
Though Ames is not saying who the developer is either — “I’ll let him make that public” — his identity may be known by September when he appears before the Lebanon Planning Board to request two minor changes to the two office lots in the Iron Horse Park site plan. The approved plan also has two large retail lots, two small restaurant sites and four industrial lots.
“If he gets Planning Board approval, then I think we’ll close by the end of the year, and he’ll probably start construction next year.”
To make room for the new development, Ames plans to move his business’ headquarters to the lot next door, which had been a Carroll Concrete plant. (Carroll consolidated its operation at its Plainfield Road plant.) In August, the Twin State office staff will work out of temporary quarters until the current building can be picked up and moved to a new foundation on the adjacent lot. After remodeling is completed in November, the staff will return to the building.
As far as selling the business, that was never considered. And Pike, a long-time rival of Twin State now owned by the Dublin, Ireland-based Old Castle Materials, would not be a candidate, Ames said.
The West Lebanon site hasn’t been a viable primary source for material for some time, and about 10 years ago a decision was made to find another use for the land, which had been operating as a gravel pit since 1927. The Iron Horse development is the result of that process, which took more than five years. Final city approval was granted this spring.
Ames and Close also have benefitted from the foresight of their predecessors — Tom Close, Stuart’s father, and Bill Taylor, Ames’ grandfather — who started the company in 1947 to provide the aggregate material needed to build the Wilder Dam.
The founders had the business sense to realize, in the 1960s, that the West Lebanon site was closing in on its useful life as a primary stone source, and they purchased a large tract of land along the Connecticut River in North Hartland. That site is the future of the company, Ames said.
Twin State has its mining and trucking operations in North Hartland, where the company has been operating a quarry and gravel pit for decades. Ames and Close also plan to relocate the asphalt division, Blaktop Inc., to that site. (The two companies have about 60 employees.) The move is awaiting Vermont Act 250 approval.
Close and Ames were instrumental in getting a bridge built over Interstate 91 that allows access for their trucks, and for vehicles going to the 10-town consortium landfill that is planned for the 175 acres adjoining Twin State’s North Hartland site. The company sold the consortium the land, built the access road and loaned the consortium money to finish the bridge when costs ran over the $1.5 million estimate.
The completion of the bridge also has improved noise and dust conditions in White River Junction, where Twin State’s trucks had to travel Main Street to River Road to access the quarry and were restricted to 90 trips a day. Now, the trucks no longer use Main Street, and the company is allowed to make 600 daily trips across the new bridge.
“We were really restricted and couldn’t expand our business,” Ames said. The new access also is a major step for the revitalization of White River Junction, he added.
Ames also has on his plate the Westboro affordable housing development near the company’s West Lebanon site. It’s about half built out and sold and he’s looking for a developer to buy the rest of the lots and put houses on them. “Our timing (breaking ground near the beginning of the recession) couldn’t have been worse,” he said.
Warren Johnston can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3216.