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Charter school plans to buy former Shoetorium space for $625,000

  • Brendan Downey, of Lebanon Public Works, plows the Lebanon Mall in front of the Roy E. Lewis building, formerly the home of the Shoetorium, in Lebanon, N.H., Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. The Ledyard Charter School wants to buy the building and is seeking a $1 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture to cover the purchase and renovations costs. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • T.J. Contois, 15, left, and his sister Sarah, 18, of Lebanon, leave the Ledyard Charter School on early release due to snowy weather in Lebanon, N.H., Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2019 10:02:18 PM
Modified: 12/17/2019 10:02:11 PM

LEBANON — Ledyard Charter School is moving forward with plans to purchase its current home in downtown Lebanon and could reopen a long-shuttered storefront on the pedestrian mall.

The school’s board of directors voted earlier this month to sign a purchase and sale agreement to buy 39 Hanover St., popularly known as the Shoetorium building, from businessmen Bob Haynes and Bill Vierzen.

Ledyard would pay $625,000 for the two-story building, which students and teachers moved into four years ago, according to minutes of the board’s Dec. 6 meeting.

Haynes and Vierzen bought the property for $425,000 in 2014, according to city records, which values the 0.18-acre parcel at $503,100.

Haynes, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, said last summer that talks to demolish and redevelop the property fell through. He approached Ledyard officials in March and offered to sell the building.

The school also is asking for a roughly $1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cover the purchase and a renovation.

Lebanon Mayor Tim McNamara is expected to endorse the loan request during Wednesday’s City Council meeting, according to City Manager Shaun Mulholland.

The charter school announced last summer its intention to purchase the building where it now rents space on the ground floor.

At the time, officials said the sale could provide a long-term home capable of housing future expansions.

The building is already certified for secondary education. It was previously used by the now-defunct Lebanon College.

John Higgins, Ledyard’s executive director, said Tuesday the building could be used to expand services to seventh and eighth graders.

He said middle schoolers could occupy about half of the top floor while the other half could be returned to retail, under preliminary plans for the building.

The possible renovation would be a welcomed addition to the city’s ongoing revitalization efforts in the neighborhood, Mulholland said Tuesday.

He added the project would pair well with other efforts, such as Lebanon’s upcoming plans to renovate and reopen the dilapidated rail tunnel that runs under the mall.

“This could certainly be helpful in that regard,” he said in a phone interview.

But Assistant Mayor Clifton Below was more skeptical of reintroducing retail to the building.

The Shoetorium, a popular shoe store that moved out of the top floor in 2010, had a reputation for good customer service and specialized in fitting people for orthotics, said Below, managing partner of the nearby One Court Street building.

However, he said, the business wasn’t able to withstand the rise of online and discount shoe stores. The business closed for good five years after moving.

Still, “there are a number of retailers that are surviving and even thriving” on the pedestrian mall, Below said. Those are primarily stores that cater to specific hobbies or activities, such as ski and bike shop Omer and Bob’s and craft store Scratch, he added.

“People will seek out some retailers,” Below said.

Ledyard’s purchase and sale agreement has a deadline of March 13, 2020, and Higgins predicts it could take at least a year to fully explore options for the upstairs and retail space.

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




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