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In Debating Reuse For State School Property, Laconia Debates Its Future

Annie Ropeik

Lakes Region residents got their first look Wednesday night at possible future plans for the former Laconia State School.

The scenic, state-owned property was a state prison, and before that, a residential facility for people with developmental disabilities. 

The state’s contractor gave three scenarios for redeveloping the land. All included different types of housing and open space. A resort and events space or a sports complex are also on the table. 

The contractor said they’d found a lack of housing was a top issue for Laconia’s economy.

But some were leery of putting affordable and workforce housing on the state school site, with its mountain and lake views and abundant green space.

Click to enlarge residents' comments on three proposals for redeveloping the site:  

Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR
Laconia residents weighed in on three proposals for reusing the state school property using green and red stickers (denoting support and opposition) and comments on sticky notes.

Laconia resident Karen Barker says she’d like to farm the land, or keep it undeveloped.

"I also would really like us to look at a much broader value spectrum than just economic value,” she says.

Others, especially younger residents, supported the idea of a sports complex and more year-round recreational opportunities.

Many also wanted details on how the state would deal with asbestos, mold and other environmental issues at the site before redeveloping it.

The state will take more comments on its plans until June 16. Then it’ll conduct economic analyses of some ideas, before commissioning a master plan for the site.

Residents interested in commenting can email Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission chair George Bald at, or mail them to the commission care of RFS Engineering, 71 Water Street, Laconia, NH 03246. 

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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