Building off the success of its expanded stores on Interstate 93 in Hooksett, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission hopes to do the same in Hampton.
The commission is looking for developers interested in buying approximately 88 acres and redeveloping the sites into full-service travel plazas.
The developer would be responsible for all construction, operating and maintenance costs. That includes tearing down the current liquor and wine outlets, which are 19,000 and 16,000 square feet, and replacing them with twin 22,000-square-foot stores.
A request for qualifications released Friday allows those interested to propose “creative concepts,” building sizes and layouts, project schedule and financial terms.
The commission will own the stores and the highway off-and on-ramps leading to the properties, according to the documents. The developer will be reimbursed for the cost of building the liquor stores.
New uses could include gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants.
NHLC Chairman Joseph Mollica has previously said there are few such sites across the country that offer such unique development right off a highway.
E.J. Powers, a spokesman for the liquor commission, said the plan has been in the works for several years.
“We are at the exciting point of actually marketing the site nationwide and seeking experts in this area that can put forth a New Hampshire-centric proposal that will draw millions of visitors every year,” he said. “This is a unique project certainly in New England and potentially nationwide. There is direct highway access to these rest areas.”
He expects a significant amount of interest from companies across the country. The commission touted the New York Times calling the existing northbound outlet a “must-stop vacation destination.”
Qualification packages are due at 5 p.m. on Nov. 19. Requests for proposals from developers who make the short list are expected to be released sometime in December.
Of the 88 acres, engineering analysis shows 11.5 acres on the southbound and 11.6 acres on the northbound site can be developed. The NHLC has owned the southbound parcel since 1981 and the northbound since 1992.
Interstate 95 carries on average 79,000 vehicles per day in both directions, with summertime peaks of over 125,000, according to the documents.
Together, the two stores in Hampton brought in about $48 million in fiscal year 2020.
The stores at the Hooksett welcome centers brought in $32 million that fiscal year.
The project in Hooksett involved a 35-year lease with the Department of Transportation. The expansive welcome centers opened in 2014 and were completed in 2015. The center includes a 1950s-style diner, a deli and a 24-hour convenience store as well as Irving fuel pumps and electric-vehicle charging stations.
Alex Ray, owner and founder of The Common Man Family of Restaurants, along with Edward McLear and Brad Pernaw, teamed up to form Granite State Hospitality. The firm operates smaller Common Man Roadside locations in Manchester and Plymouth.
Ray said the firm is aware of the Hampton project and is going to take a look at it.
It is different from Hooksett in that the liquor commission is looking to sell the land. It’s unknown what the requirements will be to develop the site.
“That decision can’t come until we see bid specs,” Ray said.
Most of his company’s plan in Hooksett revolved around a New Hampshire theme.
“We’ve lived up to our lease by having no national brands (except Irving),” Ray said. “We are proud of that.”
Maryland-based Host International and Chicago-based First Equity Group also bid for the Hooksett project.
Powers said there is more land in Hampton.
“Hooksett is a great model because it offers a truly New Hampshire-centric, unique proposal,” he said. “We have fantastic partners in Hooksett who know the state well and who put forward a product that is unique. If you travel across the country, there are very few, if any, rest stops that offer the character and quality of food and offerings that are available in Hooksett.”
Bid proposals for the Hampton stores are expected to be submitted in February 2022. A selection committee with evaluate each of the proposals.
Keller-Williams Coastal Land and Commercial Group will market and broker the sale.