Developer buys up 2nd downtown Claremont property this year

  • The Moody Building in Claremont, N.H. on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. The building has recently been purchased. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 11/12/2021 7:14:03 AM
Modified: 11/12/2021 7:14:12 AM

CLAREMONT — With one redevelopment of a historic downtown building underway, New Hampshire developer Eric Chinburg has now acquired his second landmark Claremont property.

Chinburg recently purchased the Moody Building, the four-story Queen Anne-style former hotel on Opera House Square and one of the city’s most familiar buildings whose image has long been put on vintage postcards and promotional materials

Named after New Hampshire shoe manufacturer and Claremont benefactor William H.H. Moody, the former Moody Hotel building dates to around 1900 and was considered one of the state’s most elegant hotels — President John F. Kennedy campaigned there in 1960 — before it was converted decades ago into retail stores on the street level and offices on the upper three floors.

“I love the history of Claremont. I love its downtown and its potential,” Chinburg said in an interview this week, explaining his reason for acquiring two of the city’s major downtown properties.

Chinburg purchased the Moody Building from Derry, N.H., real estate investor David Incerto, for $1.6 million. Incerto had purchased the nearly 50,000-square-foot building for $1.1 million in 2017, according to city records. From 2004 to 2017 the building was owned by a partnership between Sullivan County investors Tony Zullo and Andy Dauphin.

Chinburg called Claremont, a once-mighty industrial center that in recent years has been trying to claw its way back from the collapse of its manufacturing economy, “strategically located in reference to the Upper Valley and Hanover region” and poised for revival as people are pushed south from Grafton County due to lack of housing.

But Chinburg, who has redeveloped mills in southeastern New Hampshire, said he is not planning to convert the Moody Building into residential units, despite the pressing demand for housing in the Upper Valley and the ability of landlords to charge higher rates because of the shortage.

“Our intention is to keep it the way it is and make improvements to the building as needed,” said Chinburg, adding the structure is “generally in good condition.”

On the ground floor, the building’s tenants include a consignment store, a shoe and work apparel store, two hair salons, a used bookshop, a new taco restaurant, a photography studio, a travel agency and Sullivan County Republicans. Tenants on the upper floors include New Hampshire Legal Assistance, Greater Claremont Chamber of Commerce, Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley and other social service agencies and mental health counselors.

Only last month Chinburg, through his company, Newmarket, N.H.-based Chinburg Properties, secured financing to complete an $11 million project converting the Peterson building in the Monadnock Mills complex on the Sugar River into 83 apartments. Those rental units are expected to be ready for occupancy in the spring.

Chinburg’s purchase of the Moody Building is the second property on Opera House Square to change hands this year.

In January, Charlestown’s Georgiadis family purchased 2 Pleasant St. facing the south side of the square, for $525,000. The Georgiadises said they were motivated to acquire the building, where the restaurant and bar Taverne on the Square is located, because they expect the upgrade of Pleasant Street will draw more pedestrians to downtown.

Moody Building tenants on Thursday said the new owner hasn’t communicated with them beyond sending a letter disclosing the purchase and telling them how to make rent payments going forward.

“He got a real bargain,” opined David Santini, owner of E. & D. Shoe and Workwear Co., an orthopedic shoe and apparel store that relocated from Pleasant Street to the Moody Building in January, about the $1.6 million price Chinburg paid for the property. Santini, 85, who has been selling shoes for decades and has occupied four different storefronts around Claremont, thinks Opera House Square is the place to be.

“When they are done with Pleasant Street, that’s going to make a difference” in people coming downtown, he said.

“It’s good to see someone investing in Claremont,” said Laurel Eaton, owner of Violet’s Book Exchange, a used book store that she has run for more than 14 years on the ground floor, about her new landlord.

Incerto said that when he purchased the Moody Building four years ago it was only 60% occupied, but now all the office space is rented. He credited John Sasso, 84, the longtime on-site property manager, with bringing the occupancy back up and maintaining the building’s historic features, which include stained-glass windows and a baronial stairway leading from the lobby to the fourth floor.

“John’s the heart and soul of that building,” Incerto said, adding that the building has 32 commercial tenants and a waiting list for others wanting to lease office space.

Incerto said he decided to sell the building because he had accomplished his business objectives, was able to see its value increase nearly 50% in four years and because he is now focusing on investing in single-family homes.

“Also, it got to the point where I didn’t know how long it would be until John retired, and I didn’t trust the building with anyone else,” Incerto said.

True to the Moody Building’s echo of bygone hotel grandeur, Incerto adamantly maintains that two years ago when he was lugging a box of paper towels upstairs he saw, on the second floor, a “ghost” of a woman dressed in 1920s fashion.

The apparition lasted for “about 10 to 15 seconds,” he said, before vanishing. The experience startled him and left an indelible impression.

“I never believed in ghosts,” Incerto said, who added that once he began confiding in other tenants about what he witnessed two other tenants told him of similar experiences.

Sasso, the property manager who is now working under his third owner of the building, said he is agnostic on the ghost stories but, he said, “this is an old building. It makes a lot of noises.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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