When construction started in 1981, Laconia’s South Down Farm offered an ideal picturesque setting for condominium homes. Located at the former 126 acre “Taylor Farm” the original planned community had some marketing flaws and the project stalled. I was brought in by the bank that financed the original community to sell the remaining five or six units at the Fells Condominium located in a field off of Parade Road. After we sold those original units, the original developer stepped out of the project it was then that L. John Davidson arrived in July of 1983, South Down was dead in the water and in trouble financially. Enter Davidson, a true visionary who comes up with a completely new waterfront concept plan geared to the vacation home market to give the stalled project new credibility. He then acquired multiple adjoining parcels and almost a mile of shorefront on Paugus Bay. The name was then changed to “South Down Shores” then carried forward to “Long Bay” its sister community and the rest is history.
Today, 36 years later, South Down Shores and Long Bay encompass over 360 acres with almost 1 mile of shorefront on Lake Winnipesaukee. These private, gated communities feature unique villages and single-family homes of many architectural styles. A huge investment infrastructure for roads, city water/sewer and underground utilities was made. Davidson created a private yacht club for boats complete with boat slips, racks and a launch area with multiple sandy beaches and breakwaters. Throughout South Down and Long Bay, he crafted a series of beautifully landscaped ponds, community buildings, walking trails and an immense waterfront greenbelt common area along the entire shoreline, for all residents to enjoy.
Both communities now have over 600 property owners from many geographic areas who can call the Lakes Region “home”. Many are vacation homeowners & semi-retirees and others are year-round, permanent residents. Davidson’s ‘vision’ and hard work paid off immensely for the City of Laconia. Today both communities contribute somewhere close to $3.5 million annually to the City of Laconia’s tax revenue. That’s a lot of income, which has helped the city grow its infrastructure, schools, police station, and other amenities.
Not only that but think of the economic impact these 600+ families have contributed to the Lakes Region. The pure size of the development infrastructure, amenity package and huge amount of housing constructed has created a massive amount of jobs over the years for local engineers, surveyors, architects, attorneys, site contractors, home builders, landscape companies and all of the other trades connected with the home building industry. Realtors have also benefited; I know our company and our associates have been involved in more than 600 sales since the 1980s. Most importantly, all of the vacation homeowners, semi-retirees, and residents who have called South Down Shores “home” since its inception have immensely supported all of the businesses which operate in the Lakes Region. Just think of the boat dealers, home improvement stores, contractors, furniture stores, automotive dealers, restaurants, entertainment venues, ski areas and all other attractions that have profited from the families who have become a fabric of our area.
So just who is this man that saved the South Down Farm project? L. John Davidson grew up in Andover, MA and graduated from Phillips Andover and Harvard University. As a young man he worked in his father’s restaurants, he was an air controller in the Korean War and later operated clothing stores called “The Andover Shop” in Cambridge & Andover. He also developed the 400-acre land package for the Raytheon Company Missile Systems Plant and he reconstructed Andover Square after defeating Urban Renewal in the 1960s. From 1965-1970 Davidson bought out 70 separate parcels of land, an entire valley in Quechee, VT. He became the architect/developer of one of the largest and most successful developments in New England. The community was called Quechee Lakes and included 6000 acres where Davidson placed 50% of the land in a permanent greenbelt to preserve the integrity and natural beauty of the valley. There are currently over 1700 homes and condominiums in The Queechee Development where he rebuilt a covered bridge over the Ottauquechee River, restored an abandoned mill and relocated other buildings throughout the town. He developed ski trails and built ski lifts for the residents, two championship golf courses, two lakes and a 50-mile trail system. Davidson’s “farmstead concept” was unique to the real estate industry and he was the first to offer the single-family home as a condominium. Davidson later on created condominium suites in Maine and he financed a salvage expedition that raised a 70-foot sections H.M.S DeBraak shipwreck, a British warship that sank off the coast of Delaware in 1798 rumored to be carrying vast treasures. Over the past decade, he embarked on an “egg-venture,” where he spent millions developing an egg pasteurization process to eliminate salmonella and bacteria. He now holds 6 patents. John presently resides in Atkinson, NH.
Although Stanford, Connecticut, may have more Fortune 500 Companies per square mile and Boston is certainly an economic engine, these major cities lack one critical resource that the Lakes Region has in abundance. Our beautiful lakes, mountains, forests and rivers continue to attract tourists to our area and new property owners to our area, and they all contribute to the Lakes Region growth and prosperity. Business development and industry growth is likewise important for our economy’s engine and like any community, we need jobs to prosper. However, we can’t lose sight of what our region is all about; we’re primarily a tourist, second home, and semi-retired home market. We also have a strong primary residential market in our surrounding towns, with many young families investing in the Lakes Region. All of us in the Lakes Region should strive to make it the best possible New England destination. Quality development is critical; we need to develop communities we can be proud of, like South Down Shores and Long Bay. I’ve seen the excitement first-hand in the comments from families who have purchased over the years. They absolutely love the community and the entire Lakes Region. They may have started out by renting in the community and then graduated to a small condominium and eventually into a permanent single-family home. So many of them have commented that there’s so much more to do here in the Lakes Region than there was 25 years ago. Nowadays, we have many attractions like The Tanger Outlet Mall, Bank of NH Music Pavilion, the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, Gunstock Mountain Resort, The NH Motor Speedway, and many new restaurants and eateries. Additionally, there are so many more events to participate in, such as craft fairs, The New England Pond Hockey Classic, fishing derbies, car and boat shows, and the NH Pumpkin Festival.
The popularity of these two communities is evident by the strong sales activity over the past years as follows:
The average selling price of $389,856
Price range of $162,000-$770,000
The average selling price of $365,893
Price range of $174,750-$900,000
The average selling price of $456,211
Price range of $178,000-$1,175,000
At the present time in 2020, 14 homes have sold for an average selling price of $501,570 with a price range of $239,000-$1,130,000 and there are 7 properties available for sale ranging in price from $260,000-$1,249,500.
That’s a pretty good testimonial to the success of these fine communities.
This article was written by Frank Roche. Frank is president of Roche Realty Group with offices in Meredith and Laconia, NH, and can be reached at (603) 279-7046. Data was compiled by a NEREN map search on 06/11/2020 and is subject to change. Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market.