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Last November, Diane Sage of Loft Fifty 5 at the Langer Place Mill in Manchester, left, helps customer Carol Brecht of Bedford. Sage was forced to leave the space she was renting in Manchester; the barn in Bedford is the shop's future, permanent home. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER file)

Bedford barn to be transformed into gift shop

BEDFORD — A vacant barn along South River Road will soon be converted into a local gift shop.

This week, the Bedford Planning Board approved a site plan for the 3,250-square-foot barn owned by Bank of America at 46 S. River Road.

“This barn building, I don’t know that it was ever occupied,” said Jeff Kevan with TF Moran. “The interior of the building right now is basically a shell. It is post to beam.”

The barn shares a parcel with Bank of America. Town planners agreed to change the use of the barn to a retail and warehouse use, with the intention that it will be transformed into a gift shop.

Diane Sage, co-owner of Loft Fifty 5 gift shop, was previously renting space for her business at the Langer Place Mill on Commercial Street in Manchester until she was forced to leave by June 29; the new owner of the Langer Place Mill is now leasing the large building to Southern New Hampshire University.

Although Sage found a temporary location to open shop at 25 S. River Road in Bedford, Loft Fifty 5 is eyeing the vacant barn as its future, permanent home.

She told the Planning Board the barn will be used as a retail shop selling purses, jewelry and other home goods, and that the upper level may be used as a storage loft for the business.

If the gift shop does not come to fruition, the barn will still be zoned for retail and warehouse use.

“The building is bare inside,” said Becky Hebert, planning director. Although the barn was originally intended as office space for the bank, it was never utilized.

Kevan said the outside of the barn will remain clapboard and glass, with no exterior changes being proposed as part of the plan.

The interior of the building will be finished to accommodate retail space, he said, adding sewer and water lines will also need to be connected to the structure.

Karen McGinley, Planning Board member, expressed concerns about traffic in the area of the bank and the barn.

“It is still a very busy intersection,” she said of the South River Road intersection with Palomino Lane and Washington Place.

McGinley said she was also concerned about the vague description of the retail use that will eventually occupy the space.

With general retail use, Hebert said it could be used as a gift shop, but if for some reason that plan changes, it could also be occupied by a clothing store or any dry-goods retailer.

It cannot be used for a pharmacy, restaurant or coffee shop without additional approvals from the Planning Board, Hebert said.

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