Closed since 2011, the historic grand hotel and resort in Dixville, N.H. encompasses 7,642 acres, an 18-hole Donald Ross-designed golf course and existing clubhouse, the Hampshire and Dix Houses, a 225,000-gallon wastewater treatment plant, existing operations infrastructure at The Wilderness ski area, and several more buildings. Phase I of an existing redevelopment plan will require about $175 million in capital.
To find investors to redevelop The Balsams resort in Dixville, N.H., the owners of the landmark property have offered it for sale through CBRE, one of the largest commercial real estate and investment firms in the world, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
The Balsams encompasses 7,642 acres, with an additional 3,605 acres under option contracts; an 18-hole Donald Ross-designed golf course and existing clubhouse; the Hampshire and Dix Houses; a 225,000-gallon wastewater treatment plant; existing operations infrastructure at The Wilderness ski area; and several more buildings, according to the CBRE advertisement.
Perhaps as importantly, the Union Leader reported, the Balsams, under the 50-50 ownership of Dan Hebert and Les Otten, possesses a development team, led by Otten, that has “secured the necessary entitlements under a Planned Unit Development (PUD) for the future development of up to 4,600 four-bedroom equivalent lodging/residential units in Dixville and exclusive to Colebrook.”
“Furthermore, the team has put together a detailed plan for Phase 1 with redevelopment strategies, cost breakdowns and renderings, making the renovation virtually ‘shovel-ready,’” the CBRE ad states.
Phase I, however, will require about $175 million in capital to make it happen, the Union Leader reported. Otten and company explored several funding avenues, including a $28 million loan guarantee from the Business Finance Authority, but all failed to materialize.
The Balsams and its many supporters were able to convince the New Hampshire Legislature to adopt and Gov. Chris Sununu to sign House Bill 540, which allows counties, in this case Coos County, to issue bonds for Redevelopment Districts in unincorporated places like Dixville, the Union Leader reported. The Coos County Commission is presently working to finalize details of how it could “float” a bond for Dixville that would be purchased by an outside party and repaid at no risk to county taxpayers.
To facilitate the Balsams project, Sununu also designated Dixville as a federal “Opportunity Zone,” which is another potential source of money for redevelopment, the Union Leader reported.
Asked about The Balsams being “for sale,” Scott Tranchemontagne, who is a spokesman for Otten, told the Union Leader Otten and company’s engagement with CBRE “has been long-planned, based on the multi-year relationship around our redevelopment efforts, and was a natural next step in our financing efforts. We have said from the very beginning that we would be seeking equity investors. This is part of that process.”
In e-mails, Tranchemontagne said that taking on equity investors “might result in direct investment or sale of parts of the project’s assets.”
He added that “Seeking additional investors, or owners, has always been an integral part of our financing plan,” and now that the Opportunity Zone investment is available, “this is the best way to reach the widest possible pool of investors.”
The CBRE ad notes that “upon acquiring The Balsams, the new investor will have complete access to the in-place development team,” led by Otten, “and the multi-phased plan to position The Balsams as one of the largest and most renowned resorts in the Northeast,” the Union Leader reported.
Otten and his team, the ad continues, are “prepared to work hand-in-hand with new investors, whether that be moving forward with their approved plans or shifting gears to a new vision.”
John Scarinza, who is chairman of the Coos County Planning Board, did not immediately reply to an inquiry asking whether a significant change in the vision from what the board has already approved for The Balsams would require new application and approvals, the Union Leader reported.
Closed since 2011, The Balsams has been before the Coos County Planning Board since 2014 in one form or another, the Union Leader reported. In 2015, the planning board approved the Planned Unit Development for the project.
Despite looking for new investors, Tranchemontagne said Otten and his team “have every intention of renovating and expanding the Balsams Resort as has been contemplated for the past several years,” the Union Leader reported.
He said CBRE will identify potential investors, noting that “CBRE is extraordinarily familiar with the Balsams, having completed the market feasibility study on the project in 2018, and based on CBRE’s hotel and resort experience and relationships, they have access to a broader investor pool to advance the Balsams efforts.”
Tranchemontagne said that regardless of who gets credit for making it come to fruition, “our highest priority is making sure the Balsams project moves forward and succeeds, thereby creating several hundred new jobs and attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in the North Country,” he told the Union Leader.