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Government loan to help charter school to buy building in downtown Lebanon

  • 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.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/25/2020 9:44:33 PM
Modified: 8/25/2020 9:44:30 PM

LEBANON — Ledyard Charter School, an alternative high school that’s moved five times since its founding a little more than a decade ago, finally has a permanent home.

The public charter school on Tuesday received a $1.07 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will go toward the purchase and renovation of 39 Hanover St., a roughly 10,000-square-foot structure at the end of the Lebanon Mall.

The facility — known to some as the Shoetorium building after a popular shoe store that moved out in 2010 — has housed Ledyard classes for the past five years in space that was once used by the now-defunct Lebanon College.

“It’s kind of a thrill to think this little school is going to own its own building,” Mike Harris, chairman of Ledyard’s board of trustees and a former Lebanon school superintendent, said in an interview Tuesday.

USDA State Director Anthony Linardos said in a news release that the Trump administration “is focused on serving and helping the most vulnerable in our rural communities, like students at Ledyard who thrive in nontraditional learning programs.”

“This investment exemplifies our mission to improve the lives of rural Americans, and that includes our children and their education,” he added.

The loan is a “terrific deal” for Ledyard, which will pay an interest rate of 2.2% over 35 years, according to Harris.

In return, the school will receive about $625,000 to purchase the building, with remaining money for upgrades slated to start Monday.

Work on the first floor will include the creation of two new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms and a renovated entrance, according to John Higgins, the school’s executive director.

Outside, he said, crews will redo the building’s brickwork and add a new stairwell to better meet fire safety guidelines.

The second floor’s former retail space, which has gone unused for years, will be divided into two areas, Higgins said. The first will include about 2,000 square feet of space for a future tenant with frontage on the Lebanon Mall, while another space would be set aside for a future seventh- and eighth-grade program.

The entire renovation process is slated to take about a year and will be underway while classes are in session, he said.

Ledyard officials have worked for more than a year to purchase the downtown building, which came on the market after other development plans fell through.

Businessmen Bob Haynes and Bill Vierzen purchased the property for $425,000 in 2015. Haynes said last year there were talks with a developer about demolishing the building and redeveloping the lot, but those talks fell through.

The Ledyard building renovation coincides with the city’s work on a $2.5 million project to reconstruct a 300-foot bicycle and pedestrian tunnel underneath the mall just a few feet away.

That effort, which has resulted in closures to portions of the mall and disruptions for local businesses, is expected to wrap up this fall.

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




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