Lakes Region rest area proposed by builders of welcome centers in HooksettBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent April 12. 2018 1:15PM
NEW HAMPTON — Alex Ray and Rusty McLear, the businessmen who built the New Hampshire welcome centers on Interstate 93 in Hooksett, are proposing a full-service rest area closer to their homes in the Lakes Region.
New Hampton Commons would be located on the north side of Route 104 in New Hampton. It would extend from just below the Exit 23 northbound onramp and stretch east to the current Irving gas station/Circle K convenience store, to which it would be linked by a connecting road.
Ray, who is the founder of the Common Man Family of Restaurants, and McLear, who developed the Inn at Mill Falls in Meredith as well as several other hotels in the town, said the proposal, which they presented to the NHDOT along with Brad Pernaw on Monday, is still in its earliest stages.
During a telephone interview, Ray said the idea for New Hampton Commons is something he’s had in mind for several years. In 2015 he presented a conceptual plan to both the New Hampton Planning Board and Board of Selectmen, said Town Administrator Barbara Lucas, with both boards responding positively and eager to learn more details.
At that time, however, Ray didn’t own the property that is crucial to his proposal — the historic Washington Mooney House, built circa 1796, that directly abuts the Exit 23 northbound onramp, and that until recently was owned by his longtime friends John and Nancy Conkling.
The plan is to move the house back away from Route 104 and to incorporate it into a development that Ray hopes will “look like a village after it’s done. I want it to be New Hampshire at its best.”
A rest area in New Hampton would serve travelers to both the Mount Washington Valley and the Lakes Region, he said, as well as those going west to Newfound Lake or simply north-south., and
“I like that corner,” Ray said of the parcel where the Washington Mooney House now sits, “and, frankly, I didn’t want to see the normal fast food place or another gas station on the highway.” Ray said he has been working with Irving, which operates the fuel concession at the Hooksett rest areas, on the New Hampton Commons project.
Subject to approval by Irving, he said a connector would be built between the gas station and the Commons, something which would reduce traffic from Route 104.
Situated on more than five acres, the Commons would feature a visitor’s center containing food, concessions and restrooms; four stand-alone buildings, three for retail and one that would sell ice cream; a courtyard; and a parking lot for RVs and 100 cars. A sketch submitted to the P3 Infrastructure Oversight Commission also shows what is described as a “future inn.”
Unlike the two Hooksett welcome centers, which each have a state liquor store, The proposed Commons would not contain a state liquor store, unlike the two Hookset welcome centers, although there is currently liquor store is less than a quarter mile east.
“I wanted the liquor store there,” said Ray, “but we could not move fast enough” before the state built its own.