Ledyard Charter school might buy its Lebanon building

  • Executive Director John Higgins, left, works on insurance forms with the help of administrative assistant Lisa Swett at Ledyard Charter School in Lebanon, N.H., on Thursday, June 20, 2019. The school currently rents space at 39 Hanover St., but officials are now in talks to transition into owning the property, according to Higgins. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Joseph Ressler

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2019 10:18:16 PM
Modified: 6/21/2019 7:52:31 AM

LEBANON — Ledyard Charter School, which has relocated five times since its founding 10 years ago, is hoping to make its current home in downtown Lebanon permanent.

The charter school is in talks with the United States Department of Agriculture to obtain a low-interest loan to buy 39 Hanover St., where it now holds classes on the bottom floor.

If approved, the money would secure Ledyard’s status at the property, known to some as the Shoetorium building, and provide it with options to potentially expand services or earn rental income, said John Higgins, the school’s executive director.

“Right now, I’m still very optimistic about everything and where (talks) are moving,” he said Thursday. “But I know there’s a million more parts to move before we can say, ‘Ledyard Charter School owns 39 Hanover St.’ ”

The two-story building at the corner of Lebanon’s pedestrian mall was once used by the now-defunct Lebanon College and the Shoetorium, a popular shoe store that moved out of the top floor in 2010 and closed for good five years later.

Businessmen Bob Haynes and Bill Vierzen purchased the property for $425,000 in 2015.

And while the charter school moved in four years ago, the top floor has largely gone unused.

Haynes said that the building’s long-term future has been uncertain for some time. He was in talks this winter with a developer who proposed demolishing it and redeveloping the lot, but those talks fell through.

In March, the owners approached Ledyard officials and offered to sell the building, according to the School Board’s meeting minutes.

The property is currently assessed at $503,000, according to city records. Higgins said the school is looking for a USDA loan around $700,000 but that would also cover environmental and engineering inspections.

Lebanon Mayor Tim McNamara said he’s happy to hear that Ledyard is working toward a permanent home, but he said the 39 Hanover St. lot could be critical to downtown’s development.

The building sits next to a rail tunnel the city soon plans to renovate into a recreational trail and is close to other busy downtown businesses.

In its current configuration, the building isn’t meeting the site’s maximum potential, he said, adding a multi-story, mixed-use space might draw more commerce.

“I’d like to see something successful (move there),” he said, referring to the unused retail space.

But the building, having previously housed college classes, is valuable to Ledyard because it meets New Hampshire Department of Education requirements for a secondary education space, Higgins said.

Owning the entire 7,840-square-foot space would also allow Ledyard to consider expanding its programs or earn additional income by renting the former shoe store, he said.

“All of those things are in flux and all of those things are fair game and fair questioning at this point,” Higgins said.

He said talks are still in an early stage but communications from federal officials have been “encouraging.”

“We do not have any signatures on anything right now, we don’t have anything signed or set, but we have been working really hard over the last few months to engage our landlord here,” he said. “We’re on that path, well see what happens.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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