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March 04. 2013 10:39PM

Former Lowe's off I-93 in Hooksett likely spot for Bass Pro Shop

HOOKSETT - Bass Pro Shops' announcement Friday that a 140,000-square-foot store was scheduled to open in Hooksett by the end of 2013 was pleasant surprise to many in Hooksett who thought the plan had died in 2009.

While no official word on the store's location has come down other than a note in a press release that it would be "located at the intersection of Interstate 93 and Interstate 293," all signs point to the retailer moving into the shuttered Lowe's building on Commerce Drive.

The Hooksett Lowe's off of I-93 Exit 10 shut its doors in 2011 as a part of a series of Lowe's closures in southern New Hampshire that resulted in 279 layoffs.

According to Town Administrator Dean Shankle, the town was in contact with Bass Pro in May 2012. During those conversations, Hooksett largely answered questions on the old Lowe's building on Commerce Drive.

"The size they gave for the building was also the exact size of the Lowe's building, so I have no reason to think it's not the Lowe's building," said Shankle. "Obviously also, if they're going to move in by the end of the year, they're not going to build a building that big by then, so they're talking about moving into an existing building."

Shankle noted the activity is seen as a postive sign for the area.

"They apparently always kept us in the back of their mind when things started expanding again, as their business must be picking up again," he said.

"Everybody I've talked to that does anything with the outdoors whatsoever is pretty excited about it," Shankle said. "I must admit, I've never been in a Bass Pro but people who have been in them say they're a fabulous store, so it'll be a good addition to the Hooksett community and a good addition to the mix of retail we have up there at Exit 10."

Shankle confirmed that official documents had yet to be submitted to the town. Upon submission, Bass Pro's plans will go before town staff and the planning department, who will determine if they need to go before the planning board.

One area that might require such a step is the building's façade. An artist's rendering of the proposed building shows features significantly different from the current Lowes exterior.

"If it's going to look like that, they're going to need a building permit, because they're going to have to make some changes to the exterior of the structure," said Shankle.

Talks previously between the town and Bass Pro fell through in 2009, due in part to the weak economy.

A press release from Bass Pro praised the area, saying "Hooksett enjoys a rich history of outdoor sports as it is situated on the Merrimack River in south-central New Hampshire with easy access to the rugged beauty of the White Mountains via I-93."

The retailer appears to have an eye beyond local business and to tourists to north traveling up I-93, a bottleneck for southern New England tourists, particularly from Massachusetts and Connecticut, traveling to the mountains. The release touts the location as being at the center of the main corridor to the north's "recreational areas," and notes that "approximately 9.9 million people within a 100 mile radius call this area home," an area which includes virtually all of the Massachusetts Bay area.

Bass Pro Shops, headquartered in Springfield, Mo., have made their brand combining retail, conservation, entertainment, and education. Also featured at the Hooksett store will be an "expansive" boat showroom, as well as "historic photos" and exhibits paying "tribute to the region's great outdoor heritage."

bclogston@newstote.com


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