The owners-developers of The Balsams Grand Resort have submitted ambitious plans to the state that anticipate a two-year construction period beginning in 2015 to build out the $100 million first phase of a multi-phase development. With the current time line, and providing the investment is raised and the permitting process goes according to plan, The Balsams could be opened or partially opened in 2016, project spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said Monday.
"There has been tremendous interest by the
investment community in this," he said. "Investors understand that what is being
proposed will transform The Balsams into an even more unique experience than it
In a June letter to the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, ski resort developer Les Otten said, "As a destination resort, it is critical to immediately establish a range of amenities and infrastructure needed to support the lodging capacity and vice versa. Therefore, a significant portion of resort facilities must be constructed during the first phase."
Otten, of Maine, was enlisted at the beginning of the year to develop a viable plan and future for The Balsams, which, after experiencing several lean years, closed in September 2011. Phase I conceptual plans for the ski area include new trails, a total of 23 ski lifts, a four-season gondola and an expansion of the ski area to some 1,000 acres of ski terrain.
Ski amenities include a mountain lodge complex, south base area complex and lift service that extends to The Balsams village as well as water for snow-making that would be transported for about 10 miles along a pipe line, following Route 26, from the Androscoggin River in Errol. Three real estate pods are also proposed within or adjacent to the ski area and south of Route 26.
Balsams Village construction for 2015-2016 include renovating or reconstructing the historic Dix, Hampshire and Hale houses and constructing two new hotel buildings with more than 400 rooms. The village plan also calls for a new conference room, marketplace building, spa and wellness center, adventure center and east shore town homes.
For the Panorama Golf Course, the clubhouse and course would be renovated and a new owners clubhouse built. The plan also includes a single family subdivision. Other first phase improvements include swimming pool replacement, replaced or expanded boardwalk and docks, upgraded walking paths and bridges, and an access road from the existing Wilderness Base Lodge to Valley Road that includes a tunnel under Route 26.
In his letter to DES, Otten said, "Though the need to provide base infrastructure and facilities make Phase I large, further development is expected to proceed incrementally over time and will depend on market conditions. Additional project phasing and time lines beyond 2016 have not yet been developed."
In the meantime, permits from the state must
be obtained for alteration of terrain, groundwater discharge, sanitary sewer,
and drinking water and groundwater approval as well as two shore land permits.
On the scale proposed, The Balsams redevelopment would be among the largest developments in New Hampshire history, and the market to complete that development is now and the next few years, said Tranchemontagne.
"The Balsams has always been magical and historic and what we are talking about is taking it to a whole other level, so it can compete with national and international resorts," he said. The attraction at The Balsams would not just be skiing and golfing, but all outdoor recreation, such mountain biking and all levels of hiking on the resort's roughly 10,000 acres, said Tranchemontagne. "Those are all things that investors are very impressed about," he said.
When The Balsams closed, it put about 300 area residents on both sides of the river out of work. A reborn resort on the scale planned could eventually employ at least four times that number as well as provide work for hundreds during its construction. Once opened, it would also require much food and would tie into the local farming community. "We need more food and we'd like to get that locally and that means good things for farmers locally," said Tranchemontagne. "This really lifts up everyone in the region."
Before it closed, the
Balsams in Dixville Notch, N.H., was known for its upscale Grand Resort Hotel,
which emphasized fine dining and lodging. (Boston Globe Photo)