The historic Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in tiny Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, where the first primary votes are cast in any presidential election, just won a rather timely and unusual approval from the county planning board to move ahead with a $35 million renovation even though the plans for it are incomplete. The board's hand was pushed along as the owners of the hotel, which first opened after the Civil War, were rapidly approaching an April deadline for federal tax credits that required the board's approval.
The renovation plan will retain 123,000 square feet of the 400,000 square foot complex while adding an additional 80,000 square feet. The project will effectively halve the existing size of the Balsams while radically cutting down on heating costs. A new biomass facility, along with a reduction in overall square footage and a big jump in energy efficiency compared with the sprawling and ancient complex, will drop the hotel's annual heating costs from $1 million down to $100,000.
The Balsams sits lakeside in 15,000 acres of remote New Hampshire wilderness, has 95 kilometers of cross-country skiing trails, its own 16-trail ski area, and two golf courses. It was bought in December 2011 for $2.3 million and then closed for renovations, closing the gates to the county's biggest employer. Since then, controlled fires have burned down some of the older buildings, and a large auction took place to sell off the hotel's collection of historic beds, chairs, tables, and even a chairlift. Once the full renovation is underway, the hotel will remain closed for an additional 18 months before reopening in its smaller and modernized footprint. However, to do so, the owners still need to finish their search for capital.