Developer envisions retreat center with a view in Alton



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May 7, 2024

Amy Grimm, principal owner of The Lakes Hospitality Group, at left, is shown with Jeremy Martin of Lakes Region Design Group, along with renderings of a development proposal they're working on in Alton. The property, on the Gilford town line, would become a wedding and retreat center featuring the charms of the Lakes Region. (Adam Drapcho/The Laconia Daily Sun photo)

Glass Barn Hill - Glass Barn Entry View

The "Glass Barn," a proposed wedding and retreat center in Alton, would accommodate gatherings of up to 200 people. (Courtesy image)

ALTON — Amy Grimm has enjoyed Lake Winnipesaukee since she was a child, first coming to visit a family lakehouse, and as an adult, she brings her own children to the lake. Now reinventing herself as a developer, Grimm is proposing to build a retreat center offering the charms of the Lakes Region to couples looking to celebrate their union, or organizations looking for a memorable retreat.

Grimm’s proposal centers on a 141.7-acre lot located at 00 Cherry Valley Road, positioned on the Alton side of the Gilford town line. Before she can proceed, the project will require four variances from the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment: One to allow a commercial use in the Rural Zone, another to allow access to lots apart from street frontage, and two more for accessory dwelling units. Those variances are on the agenda for the June 6 ZBA meeting; should the developer achieve those variances, she will then submit her site plan for review by the Planning Board.

Grimm, principal owner of The Lakes Hospitality Group, was a nurse for the first part of her professional life. In 2019, she took what she thought would be a brief break from working when she had her first child, but the pandemic extended that break. Then, in fall 2021, the company her husband Jonathan co-founded — the restaurant software provider Toast — went public. Amy spent her time off researching construction companies and looking for available land so they could build a home, and caught the development bug.

“My husband and I, we fell in love with the charm of New Hampshire, we ended up building a home in Meredith,” Grimm said. “I love it so much I decided I really wanted to invest in the area. I was looking for a passion project, I went online and I specifically chose the Alton area.”

Alton, Grimm said, provided the “ideal location,” being close to Gunstock Mountain Resort, Bank NH Pavilion and near marinas on Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s also easily accessible from the Seacoast and Boston.

“It really is a gem,” Grimm said of Alton. “It’s a perfect location for this retreat, for what we’re doing.”

Her search for available properties turned up the parcel at 00 Cherry Valley. It’s a hilltop property, aggressively logged by a previous owner. Grimm called the listing agent, got permission to hike the property, and “threw on some muck boots,” she said. When she finally scrambled to the high point of the land, “I was blown away by the view,” which looks out over Winnipesaukee, with the White Mountains in the distance.

“It was so serene, so peaceful,” Grimm said. “It seemed so different and magical.” It wasn’t just the view, she said. Alton Brook runs through the property and, though it was recently logged, she could see how the landscape could again host maples, oaks, pines and spruce, with rustic timberframe structures tucked beneath their boughs.

She purchased the land in December 2022, and has engaged with Gilford-based Lakes Region Design Group as the builder.

Together, they’ve developed a plan which they believe both highlights and preserves the property’s charms. They plan to develop less than half of the acreage, leaving about 80 acres in conservation.

From Cherry Valley, they plan to build a road that crosses Alton Brook via a covered bridge, then sweeps up the hillside, providing access to 18 cottages, ranging in size from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet. The road will pass by pickleball courts and a sledding hill, finally ending at the hilltop, where the two largest buildings will be constructed. Those will be what Grimm calls the “Estate House,” a large home that can accommodate 25 people, such as a bridal party, and next door will be the “Glass Barn,” a 14,000-square-foot function venue with plenty of windows, so celebrants inside can appreciate the world beyond.

The property would offer a garden outside the barn for outdoor ceremonies, but receptions would be held inside, Grimm said. She noted the plan has gone through several iterations since she first started discussing it with Jeremy Martin, principal owner of Lakes Region Design.

“The idea has evolved over time by reaching out to abutters, to architects, to engineers,” Grimm said. “We’ve been working hard to put a great team together to evolve this vision.”

That team includes Samyn-D'Elia Architects of Holderness.

Grimm said the venue could accommodate weddings and retreats of around 200 people, and offers onsite lodging for 150.

The project would employ about 350 people during the construction phase, and would create between 15 and 20 full-time jobs once operational. Martin said the development plan includes the planting of about 200 trees, all native species, in order to reforest the property.

Grimm said her hope is to create a venue that instills in its guests the same feeling she has cherished since childhood.

“To me this land was the perfect location for people to share that experience that I felt, to come to a place for reflection, where they can gather their thoughts, share experiences with family and friends,” Grimm said. “I’m hoping this would be the premiere wedding destination in all of New England.”


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