Ruger Mill redevelopment in Newport nixed

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 1/13/2020 9:41:28 PM

NEWPORT — A second attempt to convert the former Ruger Mill on Sunapee Street to residential housing has been scrapped.

On Friday, Kevin Lacasse, CEO of New England Family Housing of New Hampton, N.H., said in an email his company could not secure adequate financing to meet the selling price of the owners, 169 Sunapee Street LLC, and was therefore abandoning his plans for the four-story brick building, a former woolen mill along the Sugar River.

“I tried to restructure it a dozen different ways but just could not do it,” Lacasse said Monday. “You can only bring the price up so far. The expenses and income are what they are.”

Lacasse said in his email that his goal of creating 68 workforce housing units in the mill included a number of different funding sources such as historic tax credits, a community development block grant and low-income housing tax credits along with bank financing.

Lacasse also said NEFH had worked with Newport’s planning and zoning boards, the Selectboard, which threw its support behind the project, the Sullivan County Commissioners, the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and the Community Development Finance Authority.

Other work by NEFH included environmental and historic reviews, energy efficiency measures and the production equipment at the dams on the property.

“Unfortunately, by the time we got through the entire due diligence process and received the appraisal back, the deal just simply did not work at the selling price,” Lacasse wrote. “We searched for any and all alternatives in order to get as close to the original asking price of the seller, but just couldn’t get there.”

Lacasse said the owners paid $1.3 million for the property in 2016 and NEFH had agreed to the selling price of $4.1 million. The town has assessed the building, which is on the National Historic Register, and 6.6 acres at $1.86 million.

“The mill building alone appraised for $2,640,000, which is the only piece we needed in order to carry out our piece of the project,” Lacasse wrote. “We showed a path for them to make up the rest of their asking price through the independent sale of the remaining pieces of the overall project.”

But Lacasse said ultimately the owners decided against an agreement.

One of the owners, Manchester-based Ron DeCola, said Monday afternoon it was something “that just didn’t work out.”

“It is nobody’s fault,” he added. “These things happen.”

As for what’s next for the property, DeCola was not specific but said they would leave all options on the table and there is some interest in the building.

“We feel confident we will get the right deal for the town and for us,” he said.

In June 2017, the Newport Planning Board approved a site plan for 66 apartments in the building for the 169 Sunapee Street LLC. DeCola told the Planning Board at the time that these would be market rate apartments and the redevelopment would include a gym, media room and game room. In October, in his presentation for a Community Development Block Grant before the county commissioners, Lacasse said DeCola could not secure new market tax credits so they applied for low-income tax credits and that is when NEFH stepped forward.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.

  




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