A new luxury resort - RiverWalk at Loon Mountain – is going up in Lincoln on the site of a former paper mill and 40 percent of it is being funded in a way that’s unusual in New Hampshire: EB-5 visas that allow foreigners who invest in projects that create jobs to obtain green cards...
"Next week they’ll be doing all the basement slabs,” says Dennis Ducharme, one of the owners, standing at the construction site in the center of town.
“The first phase is what we call the residential section. It is a building that is six stories high. Eighty condominium units. The lower lobby will have a spa, a restaurant, ski lockers, a little bit of retail.”
The emphasis will be on luxury and location, Ducharme says.
“You park your car for the week and here you are in the center of town. You can either ski from here or go shopping from here or dine from here. So, it is the location itself that makes it much different.”
Well, skiing from the RiverWalk won’t be immediate. It will depend on Loon Mountain expanding onto the mountains just across the Pemi River.
A Loon spokesman says that will take several years.
But Ducharme hopes it will coincide with the second phase of RiverWalk. That means additional units, a conference center and more shops.
The cost of first phase will be about $28 million. And a big chunk of it is coming from a source not often used in New Hampshire.
It’s the federal government’s EB-5 program. It guarantees foreigners who invest in job-creating businesses in the United States will receive a green card for themselves and close family members.
That’s a fiscal strategy used for years in Vermont to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.
“And we’re slated to have $10 million in EB-5 money.”
The funds are coming through the Invest New Hampshire Regional Center in Campton, which opened about a year ago to handle EB-5 investments.
The second phase is also expected to cost about $28 million and Ducharme says bank funding is available.
And all this means jobs.
“The employment study came up to 110 full-time jobs, just for the resort itself,” Ducharme says.
About 70 of those jobs will be created in the first phase.
That doesn’t count employment at the restaurant or spa. Ducharme says he’s likely to lease those facilities.
In public hearings a few Lincoln residents have expressed concerns, including more traffic on the already busy Main Street.
But the select board favors the project, citing its jobs and tax money.
“This property has been vacant for years and there have been dreams about building hotels on this and there have been numerous false starts to this,” said O.J. Robinson, the chairman of the select board.
“As the town gets busier and thrives more the may be more traffic. It may be harder to find a parking spot sometimes. But I think overall it is going to be a huge benefit,” he said.
It has been a long time since the region has seen such economic boost, says Mark Scarano, the chief executive officer of the Grafton County Economic Development Council.
“So, it touches a lot of really good buttons, for economic development, investment in our area,” he said.
Scarano says it is another step the town’s economic emphasis on tourism.
“It really is significant also for the town of Lincoln which previously had been, decades ago a paper mill town. And the paper mill is gone. And, this town has rallied. They have adopted a new economy and this is part of it.”
Ducharme says the first phase should be open in about 13 months.