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Bill Binnie wins auction to buy former Walker School in Concord for $900,000

Bill Binnie shakes hands with Concord School Board President Kass Ardinger afer submitting the winning bid of $900,000 to purchase the Walker School from the Concord School District in an auction held at the offices of Upton and Hatfield; Thursday, November 15, 2012. Concord Group Insurance was also interested in purchasing the property.

(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

Bill Binnie shakes hands with Concord School Board President Kass Ardinger afer submitting the winning bid of $900,000 to purchase the Walker School from the Concord School District in an auction held at the offices of Upton and Hatfield; Thursday, November 15, 2012. Concord Group Insurance was also interested in purchasing the property. (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

Seacoast businessman Bill Binnie was the winning bidder on the former Walker School at a public auction in Concord this morning. He agreed to pay $900,000 for the 16,000 square-foot property and signed a purchase and sale agreement after the auction.

The sale will enable Binnie, a plastics mogul, to locate the WBIN radio and television group at the nearly 100-year old school that closed earlier this year as part of consolidation of the city schools. The move is part of a larger New England expansion that includes the purchase of radio stations in Maine and New Hampshire.

Binnie is presently in talks to buy the former police headquarters in Laconia, a building that has some challenges, including the asbestos, he said this morning.

By the end of the roughly 50-minute auction held at Upton and Hatfield law firm, Binnie had beat out Concord Group Insurance Inc., which had hoped to expand its headquarters on Bouton Street to the historic former school. Its plans would have included moving personnel from its property in Bow.

The bidding started at $620,000, the last offer Concord Group had made prior to the auction. Bidding went in minimum increments of $10,000. At 10:07, Concord Insurance offered $860,000. Two minutes later, Binnie offered $900,000 and Concord Group bowed out.

Binnie had initially offered $575,000 for the property, and Concord Group offered $610,000 a few weeks later. The district set up this morning’s auction to give the property to the highest bidder. Officials said other considerations, such as whether the property would become taxable and what its impact would be on the neighborhood, had been considered about equal, making the purchase price the determining factor.

The renovation of the building could last up to a year, Binnie said. The school district still needs to provide a clear warranty title for the property.

The Concord School District put Walker School and several others up for sale after it opened three new elementary schools this year. Today’s auction came the morning after another development in those sales. Last night, a subcommittee of the Concord School Board gave an early nod to Christ the King to buy the former Rumford School on Thorndike Street for $600,000. The parish says it wants to renovate Rumford School and eventually move its students at St. John Regional School there.

Meanwhile, conversations continue with city officials regarding the transfer of Dame School for a city community center. Plans for Eastman School stalled after neighborhood residents decried plans to sell the site to a company that runs assisted living facilities. Concord’s Boys & Girls Club has shown an interest in renting Eastman while its own building is renovations. Those negotiations are ongoing, officials say.

Read more details in tomorrow’s Monitor.

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