Galleria purchased by New London Trust for $1.5M

by Alik Widge | 11/9/95 6:00am

The Galleria retail building on South Main Street, which has been nearly empty for the past two years, will receive a vital infusion of new business in the next few months.

The building, which contains Hilde's Salon, 60 Minute Photo and the New London Trust, was recently purchased by New London Trust for $1.5 million, less than half what it cost to build in 1984. New London Trust becomes the ill-fated building's fourth owner in 11 years.

Bill Kidder, New London Trust's president and chief operating officer, said the bank will make the building its center of operations in the Upper Valley and will lease out remaining space to other businesses.

Bill Clausen, who managed the Galleria for the previous owner, Hanover Investments, said, "both sides got a good deal."

Mike Woodard, the realtor who brokered the deal, said there are several possible tenants -- including a catering business, law firms, accountants and a larger corporation -- that could being occupying the building in the next three or four months. Woodward is also the building's new manager.

The building's name and appearance will change to match its new function, Woodard said.

Woodard said the building will be renamed "80 South Main Street," which is its actual address.

" 'Galleria' was its name as a retail structure, a purpose which basically failed," Woodard said. "The primary focus will be office space, and the new name reflects that."

Proposed physical changes include the addition of more windows and a new entrance, as well as a repainting of the building's interior. Hilde's Salon, which is located on the third floor, will likely be moved to the basement, Woodard said.

Ken Watrous, who works at 60 Minute Photo, said he is optimistic about the change.

"We're looking forward to it," he said. "Hopefully, it'll give us a lot more traffic."

But Jim Packard, the building's janitor, said he does not think the change will bring in an influx of new customers.

"I don't really think business will change," Packard said. "These places already have their set clientele."

Packard blamed the Galleria's most recent owner -- Hanover Investments -- for its decline.

Hanover Investments "didn't really care" about the tenants, he said.

But Clausen said he does not think the problem with the Galleria was its management.

"Some tenants had needs we couldn't meet, and others couldn't meet our needs," he said. "I knew most of the tenants, and we were really sorry to see some of them go."

Ryan FitzSimons '96, whose College Promo-Pack business moved out of the Galleria in October, said the building's location was responsible for its failure.

"Basically, the building was over the 'line of death,' " FitzSimons said, referring to the Galleria's position at the edge of town's business district.

"There's nothing south of it, and you don't have to walk by it to get to anything, so nobody went there," he said.

FitzSimons said the New London Trust should be able to revitalize the Galleria.

"Under new management, with a new marketing scheme and the remodeling, they should be able to fill it," he said.

According to Clausen, most of the tenants who left moved closer to campus.

"If we had been on the Hanover Inn corner, the retailers would have jumped in," he said.

Clausen admitted another reason the building failed was his own flawed planning.

He said he intended to bring in a larger retail store such as Sam Goody's, a music store, or The Gap, which would draw the traffic smaller businesses needed to survive.

"This is the only Ivy League town without national retailers," he said. "I thought Hanover was such a big draw."

The problem, he said, was that "nobody really wanted to move in."

"Our decision was that if we couldn't find a retailer by January of 1995, we would convert the building into office space," he said. "New London Trust came along at the perfect time."

The New London Trust is the fourth owner of the troubled building.