April 05. 2013 8:00PM

Bass Pro Shop to open at former Lowe's in Hooksett

Union Leader Correspondent

HOOKSETT - Hooksett officials and Bass Pro Shop representatives are hammering out details on the plan for Bass Pro Shops to open in the former Lowe's building off Interstate 93's Exit 10 in time for this year's Christmas season.

A Bass Pro spokesperson indicated that while it wasn't yet clear how many people the store would hire, Bass Pro stores of this size tend to employ between 250 and 300 associates. Job postings for management positions can already by found on employment websites and Bass Pro's "career" pages.

The property is owned by 1 Bemis Reality, a condominium association that leases out buildings on the property off Commerce Drive to Walmart and Lowe's. The Hooksett Lowe's shut its doors in 2011 as a part of a statewide series of closures resulting in 289 layoffs. Lowe's, however, maintains its lease on the building.

"Lowe's still has the contract with the owner of the land, and my understanding is that, at least in the short term, Bass Pro is going to be sub-leasing from Lowe's," said Hooksett Town Administrator Dean Shankle.

According to Shankle, Bass Pro began cleaning out the Lowe's building last year.

The property owner, Michael King, stated that he knew nothing about the deal that he hadn't read in the press, and would not talk further due to confidentiality clauses in the lease agreements.

The 140,000-square-foot store is scheduled to open in time for this year's Christmas season. The retailer had made overtures to the town in 2009 about opening a shop in Hooksett, but those talks fell through, and the project was largely assumed to be dead until a Bass Pro press released in early March announced the coming store.

Town staff have been meeting with Bass Pro representatives and an architect contracted by the company so they can put together a report on the site regarding what the company needs going forward with the site, with the most recent meeting on April 4.

"They weren't really sure what they wanted to do, and they have wanted to come in and get more details," said Shankle. "We had sent them all the information before, but that's why the contractor was sent here to put together a report for them of what they might need to do. . They talked about signage, they talked about the highways, they talked about construction, the exterior, the interior. . Just going through some of the technical requirements from our point of view."

So far, the approvals the company will have to apply for appear to be few, as many of the necessary variances, such as for parking, were held by Lowe's. Also, as the Bass Pro doesn't appear to be planning to change the footprint of the site, no changes to the site plan will be necessary.

"The only reason they would need to go before (a town board), and it would probably be for a (zoning) variance more than the planning board, would be if they wanted to do something with a tower. My understanding is that they have a tower over 75 feet with some of their stores, but my understanding is that today that didn't come up as an issue, so I don't know if they plan on doing it," Shankle said.

Shankle noted that the company may want to expand the currently existing signage at the site, which would require a variance.

Bass Pro Shops, headquartered in Springfield, Mo, have made their brand combining retail, conservation, entertainment, and education. Also featured at the Hooksett store will be an "expansive" boat showroom, as well as "historic photos" and exhibits paying "tribute to the region's great outdoor heritage."