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Balsams project moving forward

Special to the Union Leader

February 18. 2013 11:59PM
There has been little activity at The Balsams in Dixville Notch since the May 2012 auction that saw most of the hotel's furnishings carried off. (BOB HOOKWAY PHOTO)

DIXVILLE NOTCH - As their task of putting together millions in construction financing for one of New Hampshire's best-known landmarks grinds on, the owners of The Balsams are doing what they can to keep things moving forward.

That assessment was provided by Scott Tranchemontagne, spokesman for owners Dan Hebert and Dan Dagesse, who just over a year ago bought the 145-year-old resort and its 7,700 acres. The 212-room hotel remains closed.

But the $2.3 million purchase price looks like small change next to the needed construction funding Tranchemontagne pegs at "north of $30 million."

The owners know there are plenty of questions about their project, just as there are strong feelings about the future of the venerable grand resort, tied to the personal histories of so many in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

But they won't discuss their plans publicly unless it can't be avoided, such as on the couple of occasions they've been called on to provide answers at public hearings. On Feb. 26, they or their representatives will meet with the Coos County Planning Board to apply for a construction permit.

Although that move may seem premature, Tranchemontagne cited it as one of the routine but necessary steps Hebert and Dagesse are able to take now. It should also be seen as a sign, he said, that Hebert and Dagesse - both successful businessmen - remain optimistic their funding will come together and the project will get done.

"We're confident we're going to have the financing. We'd like to be building this summer, but we don't know yet," he said.

And although the precise cost can't be known at this point, if the $30 million figure is close to accurate, the owners have more than half of that sum in hand now, he added.

"It's coming from a number of sources: banks, equity, tax credits," he said.

The owners have vowed to return The Balsams to its former glory, and steer it back to being capable of hosting and feeding a couple of hundred guests at a time.

But, their representative stressed, the goal is to provide more than glory.

"It's all about jobs - 200 or more construction jobs over 18 months while the project is on, and 200 to 300 jobs when it's open again."

The owners will bring in a management firm to run the resort, he said. Right now, work at the site off Route 26 is largely clearing away debris left by the demolition work that's been necessary to prepare the site for construction.

"It'll be a great day when we finally lock down the financing," Tranchemontagne said.

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