When you look around the Lakes Region, the economic pulse of the area is often felt by the construction activity that’s taking place. Since the downturn of our economy in 2007 it’s been an uphill struggle in the construction industry to regain the positive activity we experienced prior. Contractors and developers take on a tremendous amount of financial risks and are always gambling on which direction the wind is heading in our local economy. It’s always encouraging to see these individuals plowing forward and creating demand under difficult circumstances. It’s such a positive step that we benefit from here in the Lakes Region. If surveyors, contractors, home builders and improvement stores are busy, it means the cash registers are ringing and jobs are being created, which helps all of us thrive.
Romeo Lacasse is a local developer/builder who has taken big strides in the Lakes Region over the years. He and his partners, Ralph & Bob Meissner have created some interesting and successful communities all over New Hampshire. The most recent being Willow Pond at Long Bay & Nature’s View in Laconia, until this past Friday when they unveiled their newest community to the public, The Lakes Houses at Christmas Island.
Born and raised in Berlin, NH, Romeo married his high school sweetheart and they’ve been together for 41 years. They raised two children and now have four grandchildren. Starting off in 1977 the economy was depressed in Berlin, at the time Romeo was managing the local lumberyard. They wanted to live somewhere with a little more activity, so they soon decided to move to Manchester, NH so he could work for Diamond Lumber. He later started his own lumberyard, Merrimack Building Supply in Merrimack, NH.
Romeo and Jeanne would take the family camping in Moultonborough NH. “We had a boat at Harilla Yacht Club and absolutely loved exploring the lake and all its islands. We knew we eventually wanted to live here. We looked around the lake for a couple of year for the right opportunity but the prices seemed too high at the time.”
Romeo decided to break out of the lumberyard business and by 1983 he was constructing homes full time. “I started the business as ‘Custom Craft Homebuilders’ and built many spec homes throughout Merrimack, Manchester, Bedford & Nashua. I started my first subdivision in 1987, where I built 10 homes in Manchester.” That was quite the experience for Romeo, having to go through the planning processes of surveying, planning board approvals and then creating the infrastructure, roads, water/sewer etc. When the market was good, he was ‘spec’ing’ 6-7 homes a year, and selling them all.
Goffstown, NH 1987; he started another project combining 8 pieces of land to total 110 acres. Finally in 1992 this project was approved for a 45 lot subdivision with 3 roads. Unfortunately timing was not on his side. The NH Savings & Loan Crisis occurred, where 5 of the largest NH banks were in trouble. The project completely stalled. “There I was with just my approvals, I needed to find some partners to help me through it”. He met with two brothers, Ralph & Bob Meissner from Bedford, NH who he partnered with and has worked with ever since. “We’ve become close friends, but even more like brothers after 22 years” Romeo said. Together they were able to set up “Chestnut Street Trust” and sell all 45 homes during the relatively slow market. “We were the no-profit builders then”.
No-profit no more! Fast forward a few years, they developed a 23 lot subdivision in Hudson which sold out in a year and a half. They developed 45 condo-duplexes in Hollis called “Runnell’s Landing” during a depressed economy triggered by the aftermath of 9/11/2001. “It took a full year before we sold the first unit and then by March 2004 we finally sold out.”
Romeo and his family finally bought a couple pieces of land in South Down Shores/Long Bay in 2003. “My family and I had a big desire to get back to Lake Winnipesaukee. I built a spec house to sell and our own home on the other. I remember I was working on a subdivision in Somersworth, coming home after a long day I would drive through the South Down gate and right away get that feeling like I was on vacation again, but I was just coming home. We love this community.”
In 2006, Romeo and his partners acquired Nature’s View in Laconia, completing the infrastructure, roadways and developing 51 single family homes geared to semi-retirement living. Today there are only 2 homes left for sale, which is impressive considering the sales were made in a difficult economy. 2008, he took another project, Willow Pond at Long Bay and with very interesting architectural designs, sold 23 spec homes and 5 custom homes and has built an additional 6 spec homes and 5 more custom homes throughout Long Bay & South Down Shores.
Their most recent project is The Lake Houses at Christmas Island. After planning board approvals, sewer/water & road infrastructure was completed with the first duplex building finished this past week for its grand opening. This community features approx. 1,000ft of shorefront on Paugus Bay/Lake Winnipesaukee with individual boat slips for each individual home. It has great westerly exposure, sandy beaches, city water and sewer and direct waterfrontage.
Romeo and his wife are all about strong family ties; they enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren. His son Ben has been working by Romeo’s side since he was 19. Now at 31 years old, Ben pretty much runs some of the projects. The family loves boating on Lake Winnipesaukee and going to all the quaint lakeside restaurants all over Winnipesaukee. “The grandkids love it here, it’s so much quieter here with less traffic, there’s plenty to do and the people so are friendly.”
It’s been a very successful 32 years for the Lacasses’, dozens of subdivision and hundreds of homes built but most importantly it’s the Lakes Region lifestyle that’s been the most rewarding for their family.
The Lakes Region is lucky to have individuals like Romeo and company, creating that strong economic vibe that’s so important to the vitality of our region.
This article was written by Frank Roche, President of Roche Realty Group Inc.
Please feel free to visit www.s21794.p694.sites.pressdns.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Frank Roche is president of Roche Realty Group, Inc. in Meredith & Laconia, NH and can be reached at (603) 279-7046.