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Balsams developers target April construction start

Sunday News Correspondent

January 27. 2018 6:01PM
Shown in early 2014, with the Granite Reliable Wind Farm above it, The Wilderness Ski Area at The Balsams is poised for a major expansion. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent file photo)

DIXVILLE - As the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority considers its lead lender's application for a $28 million loan guarantee, Dixville Capital LLC is poised to begin renovation and construction at The Balsams resort in April, weather-permitting.

In December, Service Credit Union asked the BFA to guarantee that amount for Phase 1 of the Balsams project on behalf of Dixville Capital. The guarantee would be subject to final approval by the Governor and Executive Council.

The first phase includes renovation of the Hampshire and Hale houses; reconstruction of the Dix House; and construction of a 400-room Lake Gloriette House Hotel and Conference Center, Nordic baths and spa, and a marketplace and an expansion of the former Wilderness ski area.

Dixville Capital has said that SCU's $28 million loan, and the state's guarantee of it, were important elements of the $170 million Phase I financing, which also includes developer equity, preferred equity, construction debt, an EB-5 investment as well as equipment lease financing for the ski expansion.

Led by Les Otten, the former CEO of the American Skiing Company who at one time also was a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox, Dixville Capital was formed as a partnership among Otten, Dan Hebert and Dan Dagesse.

Natives of nearby Colebrook, Hebert and Dagesse purchased The Balsams, which closed in September 2010, from the Tillotson Corporation for $2.3 million in December 2011.

After attempting to bring back the resort by themselves, Hebert and Dagesse in 2013 reached out to Otten. Otten proposes to make the ski area, which would quadruple in size, accessible from the Balsams village via a gondola that would cross Route 26.

Since then, Dixville Capital has worked to obtain the required local, state and federal permits that are required for Phase 1 and also sought to nail down the financing.

Back in 2016, the would-be lead lender for Phase 1 was Northern Bank and Trust (NBT) of Woburn, Mass., but now Portsmouth-based SCU is "a better fit," said Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for Dixville Capital.

SCU has specific experience with resorts in New Hampshire's North Country, Tranchemontagne said, including the RiverWalk at Loon in Lincoln.

"We feel optimistic that if the BFA process goes smoothly and we can close up the final elements of our financial plan we can begin construction and renovation in April," said Tranchemontagne, stressing that Dixville Capital is asking for a loan guarantee from the state, not a loan.

On Jan. 24, James Key-Wallace, the executive director of the BFA, told the Union Leader that the BFA staff reviewed the initial application, "And as is very typical, we had some follow-up questions." SCU is addressing those questions, he said, and once that information is submitted, "we'll be able to proceed with our own analysis."

Wallace wasn't sure when the SCU application would be considered by the BFA, or, assuming approval there, when it might get to the governor and council.

In support of its BFA application, SCU provided a work force study commissioned by PolEcon Research and an appraisal/feasibility study by CBRE Hotels pointing to a market for an upscale, four-season resort at The Balsams and projecting that The Balsams will increase the size of the workforce in Coos County.

Human Interest Tourism Outdoors Dixville White Mountains

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