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October 23. 2012 11:22PM

Binnie reportedly trying to buy former Laconia police station

LACONIA — From police to broadcast, the Winston Building at 51 Church St. may becoming a new sort of station.

City Councilman Matt Lahey said Tuesday the city is hopeful a sale of the idled city property will occur before the end of the year.

It would put the site back on the tax rolls and potentially bring more employees back into the downtown, he said.

The Sun of Laconia reported this week that Bill Binnie is buying the property for an undisclosed amount for broadcast purposes.

Binnie is a Seacoast millionaire who ran in 2010 unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate as a Republican. He recently purchased a television station in Derry and an assortment of radio stations at auction that serve the Laconia and Concord area and beyond, including Laconia’s WLNH-FM.

WBIN television, considered the cornerstone of his emerging media empire, has an audience in southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

WBIN Public Affairs director Periklis Karoutas did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday on the pending sale.

Lahey said he could not speak specifically about the status of the old police station sale, but it comes at a time when a glut of commercial/industrial properties are for sale in Laconia.

Northern New England Real Estate network lists 212 commercial properties on the market now in Laconia priced at between $100,000 and $700,000.

The former police station has been vacant since 2004, when the police department moved to new facilities on Fair Street.

Located next to the post office, the Winston Building has 4,640 square feet of useable office space on two floors and is on about one-quarter acre. It backs up to the city’s parking lot along the edge of the Winnipesakee River, said Tara Baker, of the city’s assessing department.

The property has an assessed value, given its current condition, of $211,600, she said.

A building next door and contiguous office space at 55 Church St., owned by Cross Realty LLC and used as an insurance office, is also on the market.

Lahey said it was his understanding the two parcels were being offered for sale separately but that a buyer could come in for both parcels.

Russ Thibeault of Applied Economic Research in Laconia said such a sale at Church Street would be a step forward for the city’s ailing downtown commercial/industrial market.

“It wouldn’t turn things around by itself, but it would help,” Thibeault said. “The downtown has been decimated, but at the same time there has been some investment.”

He pointed to recent investment by Meredith Village Savings Bank, a downtown block owned by Warren Clement that was sold and is being renovated by a group led by John Moriarty, and a number of mill properties that have been converted to housing.

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Paula Tracy may be reached at ptracy@unionleader.com.


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