Apartment buildings proposed in downtown Lebanon near Colburn Park


Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 12-29-2021 2:57 PM

LEBANON — Upper Valley landlord Mike Davidson has unveiled an ambitious, mixed-use project that would create almost 150 new apartment units at the site of the former Village Market and redraw the skyline at the gateway to Colburn Park in downtown Lebanon.

Davidson’s company, Execusuite, which has redeveloped some former schools and commercial buildings in the Upper Valley into housing, showed renderings of the project earlier this month to the Lebanon Planning Board in what the board’s chairman, Bruce Garland, described as an opportunity “just to bounce some ideas back and forth.”

Village Market, which long served senior residents of Rogers House on the other side of Colburn Park, closed in 2018 and Davidson finalized the purchase of the two-acre property this month.

Davidson, who lives abroad much of the year, was not present either in-person or remotely at the Planning Board meeting but his chief of operations, Tim Sidore, along with architect Jim Wasser of the White River Junction firm Studio Nexus, took board members through their conceptual plans.

The first stages of the project would be two apartment buildings, one a six-story, 48,000-square-foot, 72-unit building and the other a 6½-story, 55,000-square-foot, 75-unit building, built in two separate phases. The Phase I building would be tucked behind the Village Market building. The Phase 2 building would be built at the corner of Mascoma Street and Water Street.

A third and final phase, described in a narrative submitted along with renderings to the board as “more a long-term redevelopment plan,” would replace the Village Market building with a six-story, L-shaped building containing 21,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on the lower level with 86 apartment units totaling 71,000 square feet on the upper five levels. The Village Market building is currently occupied by Black Moon Games, which sells tabletop games; the Laundry Spa tanning salon and laundry; and the Baan Muay Thai martial arts studio.

If all three phases were built, the project would comprise more than 240 housing units.

Sidore said the redevelopment proposal is designed to comport with Lebanon’s “master plan and visioning study” that calls for new residential housing to be focused in high-density areas of the city.

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“We see this particular lot as an ideal site for that goal” that will “really help to revitalize the downtown Lebanon area,” Sidore told the board. He said via email that the three-building project would be the biggest Execusuite has undertaken to date.

Wasser, the architect, said that the first building that would go up on the far side of the former Village Market building “would be the easier one to construct at this point in time” and with the second building “would follow shortly thereafter.”

The third phase would depend in large measure in how things proceed in the first two phases and include retail space for what Sidore described as a “community market,” although he hedged it by adding “I can’t say it would definitely happen” but “every effort” would be made to “bring a market back here to downtown.”

“Our primary motivation is to bring density and activity to the walkable downtown. In order to add a grocery store and restaurant, we need that density,” Sidore said via email on Tuesday.

He said that about 80% of the units would be studio apartments and 20% would be one-bedroom with rental rates of about $3.50 per square foot.

Preliminary renderings show studio apartments would be about 433-square feet, and one-bedroom units would be up to 929-square feet.

The first phase, which is the smallest, is estimated to cost about $12 million to build, Sidore said.

Both the first and second phases would take about two years to complete, “barring any unforeseen circumstances,” he said.

Throughout the approximately 30-minute presentation to the board on Dec. 13,  Sidore and Wasser stressed that the model for what Execusuite wants to do at Village Market in Lebanon is supported by what the company designed and built at the 69-unit complex on South Main Street in White River Junction and, earlier, converting the former Lebanon Junior High School building on Bank Street into 43 rental units.

“We’ve proved in White River Junction that we can create big buildings in downtown and they work really well in the fabric of the town,” said Wasser, whose firm Studio Nexus also designed Davidson’s recently completed South Main Street apartment complex in White River Junction and other Execusuite projects.

At the same time the comparison with the South Main Street project drew a pointed challenge from one long-time Planning Board member, who wanted to know if Execusuite was doing more than simply importing a formula from across the river.

Calling the renderings of the buildings “really wonderful,” board member Joan Monroe commented that “I don’t see downtown Lebanon at all” and observed the design looked “almost exactly the same” as the South Main Street project and asked “how does this complement the character of the existing downtown” Lebanon?

Wasser countered that the brick on the facade and window details would reflect the style and color of buildings around the Colburn Park neighborhood.

But he also noted that there are cost and material considerations that factor in as well and that it would not be possible to recreate architecture from another century.

“We’re not going to be able to recreate the buildings that are in downtown … modern technology has brought us kind of beyond that,” he said. “But it’s also not cost-effective to do those kinds of buildings anymore. So we are going to have to reinterpret these in a more modern way.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.

Correct ion

The former Village Market building in downtow n Lebanon is occupied by Black Moon Games, which sells tabletop games; the Laundry Spa tanning salon and laundry; and the Baan Muay Thai martial arts studio. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the game store and omitted the martial arts studio.