The decaying Department of Transportation complex sandwiched between Loudon Road and the Concord Coach bus terminal has sat vacant for years, greeting motorists with glimpses of low-rise buildings with broken windows, peeling paint and creeping vines .
For the town of Concord, the purchase of the 5.6-acre Horror meant a chance to redevelop and beautify a treasured downtown location visible from Interstate 93.
Four decades ago, the city and the Downtown Concord Revitalization Corporation released a pamphlet for state lawmakers that called the Stickney Avenue site “the city’s most significant building block” and “A gateway to the city center”.
“We are asking that the City be authorized to negotiate the sale of part or all of the Stickney Avenue site to private developers,” says the 1981 brochure.
Forty years later, Concord lost control of the property and what will eventually be built there after the state halted negotiations with city officials and sold the property to Manchester-based developer Brady Sullivan instead.
The sale deal, slated for closing in late September, surprised city officials who were in talks to buy the land at 11 Stickney Avenue. By law, municipalities have a first chance to buy unused state property.
Terms of sale include historic commitments to the H-shaped road garage, which is eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places, and requirements that Brady Sullivan address environmental damage caused by asbestos, paint lead and other hazardous materials. The five buildings were built between 1926 and 1950 and used from 1930 to 2006.
Under state law, municipalities like Concord have the “right of first refusal” if the state wants to offload real estate purchased with state or federal highway funds. If the state wants to dispose of unnecessary property, “the governor and council must first offer it to the government of the city, town or county in which the property is located,” says the law of the State. ‘State. If the city refuses, the governor and the executive council can sell the property to other buyers.
As of June 2020, the property was listed at $ 709,500 and Concord had its first chance to buy it. A February 2019 hazardous materials report showed significant environmental issues at the site.
City manager Tom Aspell wrote in a July 14 letter to the Department of Transportation that the city would wait for a private offer first. “The City is asking NHDOT to advise it of the pending offer so that the City can look into the matter and determine if it wishes to take action to exercise its right under the aforementioned law,” Aspell said.
In October 2020, the agency informed the city that the bidding process ended with an offer from Brady Sullivan for $ 1 million. It was then that Concord decided to throw his hat in the ring, hoping to exert more control over the layout of the site which serves as a visual gateway to the city center.
City councilors approved a resolution in December allowing Aspell to begin negotiations for a buy and sell agreement matching Brady Sullivan’s offer. A report from the City Manager’s office compared the Stickney Avenue site to the New Hampshire Employment Security Building on South Main Street, which the city bought for $ 1.575 million in 2014 and sold this year to the John J. Flatley Company for 350 $ 000.
The city sent a first draft purchase and sale contract, modeled on the 2014 agreement with the Ministry of Employment Security, to NHDOT on February 15.
After months of negotiations, the city sent out a revised draft on May 7 that said it would have to hold three city council meetings to approve funding for the million dollar purchase via an amendment from the financial district of the increase in the North End Opportunity Corridor Tax.
The May 7 draft also proposed a six-month due diligence period, setting the close for January 31, 2022 at the latest. This process involved registering the site with the Department of Environmental Services Brownfields Program, which would protect the city from liability for environmental clean-up, and removing an NHDOT right-of-way, which the director said. of the Matt Walsh redevelopment, required a survey and subdivision. the property.
That longer time frame and the series of meetings required to fund the city made Concord’s offer less attractive, said NHDOT deputy commissioner and chief engineer William Cass.
“There were more conditions on the funding, subject to city council approval somewhere after doing due diligence,” Cass said. “It has become a longer timeframe, with some risk at the end of that time that the city council may step down. “
The Department of Transportation informed the city in a May 21 letter that they planned to end negotiations. Walsh said a June 3 meeting to discuss the letter was canceled and postponed to June 8.
Aspell and Walsh said they were surprised NHDOT pulled out of negotiations with the city.
“We believe that we have met the criteria for a legitimate bid within a reasonable time, and the city should have been able to enter into a buy and sell agreement,” Aspell said.
On June 7, NHDOT Commissioner Victoria Sheehan and Brady Sullivan Properties, LLC signed a buy and sell agreement. In a letter to the Governor and Executive Council requesting approval, Sheehan wrote that the department initially attempted to offer the property to Concord.
“However, after several months of negotiation, it became evident that the City was unable to meet the favorable terms of the dealer’s offer in terms of time and conditions,” Sheehan said in the letter.
City officials met with NHDOT officials on June 8, still hoping to reach an agreement. At that meeting, the city was unaware that a deal with Brady Sullivan had already been signed, Walsh said.
“We said, ‘We’ll go ahead, we’ll finish the thing by Halloween, and if there’s anything else that’s bothering you, we’ll take it off,” Walsh said. “They said, ‘Thank you, we’ll take this into consideration,’ then they informed us afterwards that they had signed the purchase and sale agreement the day before with Brady Sullivan.”
Walsh said he had offered to drop some of Concord’s terms and deal with the Brownfields program and the right-of-way later, pushing the shutdown date back to October 31. The current deal with Brady Sullivan ends at the end of September.
“They said they had an alternative proposal of things at that point, we had to think about it and we came back and conferred with the attorney general, but it was determined that it was too little, too late. “said Cass. On June 10, NHDOT told the city the property had been sold to Brady Sullivan, Walsh said.
Aspell and Walsh said the difference between the two offers was insignificant, and they believe under state law their proposal should have been approved.
“In our mind, there was very little time difference,” Aspell said. “It was inconsequential in terms of the closure. We see no reason not to work with the local community.
Cass said her agency did not share the city’s view that the two offers were basically equal. “We saw it as ‘It wasn’t a fair deal because of the conditions,’” he said. “They were entitled to match the offer we had.”
For years, the city has viewed the region as the key to the city’s economic future. As of yet, it’s unclear how Brady Sullivan will choose to use the pitch.
Aspell said the city would have sought a developer with a vision for the property that would maximize tax value and bring vitality to downtown Concord.
“We wanted to acquire the property so that we could plan the entire site, like the Horseshoe Pond area,” Aspell said. “When you take a pivotal piece out of it, really adjacent to the exit, it becomes more difficult to be able to achieve a well-planned site that has all the elements you want.”
In 2020, Brady Sullivan indicated he would redevelop the property for “residential purposes,” according to a report from the city manager.
Arthur Sullivan said it was premature for his business to decide what to do with the land before the sale was complete. “We love to acquire it and then we find out,” Sullivan said. “That will be determined once we own the property. “
He said his company was eager to do more business at Concord.
“We are delighted to be at Concord on this particular parcel,” said Sullivan.
The real estate developer owns commercial property in three states and purchased the 181-acre Lincoln Financial property in Concord this spring. Brady Sullivan also owns the Cranmore Ridge apartment complex, where tenants were given an ultimatum earlier this year: pay higher rent for a renovated apartment or move out.
In addition to being a major player in development, the company is a major political donor. In 2019, LLCs related to Brady Sullivan and its owners donated $ 21,000 to Governor Chris Sununu.
The closing of the sale with Brady Sullivan next month marks a turning point for the Stickney Avenue site, where the dilapidated buildings have been mostly unused for 15 years.
“The longer the property is vacant, the more problematic this property becomes,” said Cass. Advancing faster in development reduces the risk of fire and break-in. “I think it’s in our best interest and in the city’s best interest,” he said.
Aspell agrees it’s high time to deal with the site – but questioned the sudden rush.
“It is a property that has been abandoned for decades,” he said. “Most of the buildings are in very poor condition. A month here or there shouldn’t make a difference.