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Friday, May 30, 2014

Business growth along 101A in Nashua isn’t slowing

NASHUA – If you want to know why the three-man development team from Northampton, Mass., bought two empty shopping plazas on Route 101A in Nashua, one of the partners, Bob Raymond, can tell you: “The numbers speak for themselves.”

Here’s one of those numbers: Property bought a year ago with a $7.25 million mortgage (which was wrapped up in just 17 days, Raymond told an visibly impressed Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce audience) is now appraised at $10 million. ...

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NASHUA – If you want to know why the three-man development team from Northampton, Mass., bought two empty shopping plazas on Route 101A in Nashua, one of the partners, Bob Raymond, can tell you: “The numbers speak for themselves.”

Here’s one of those numbers: Property bought a year ago with a $7.25 million mortgage (which was wrapped up in just 17 days, Raymond told an visibly impressed Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce audience) is now appraised at $10 million.

Here’s another: The retail properties that employed about 30 people a year ago now employ 175, and when fully tenanted by the end of year, may employ as many as 300 people. That drew applause from the morning meeting of the chamber, which gathered to discuss the ramifications of development occurring along the stretch of Amherst Street between the F.E. Everett Turnpike and the Somerset Parkway.

That stretch of road, barely a mile long, has seen two years of almost constant development and redevelopment in retail properties, and the activity isn’t likely to slow down. Law Warehouses is looking to sell several buildings and parcels that it owns on and just off Amherst Street.

One of the most obvious success stories in the past year is the rebirth of Red Falls Marketplace, home of Five Guys Burgers at 341 Amherst St., and adjacent Green Falls, which as of Friday, June 7, will be home to the state’s first Tilted Kilt, a Hooters-like restaurant.

The plazas were bought by the Northampton Boys development team a year ago after having been largely or entirely empty since they were constructed just as the recession hit in 2008; Red Falls is full and Green Falls has all but one tenant signed up and should be full by the end of the year, Raymond said.

“We pulled this thing out of the dumpster,” Raymond said.

Somerset Plaza, 375 Amherst St., is also undergoing lots of activity now that Market Basket has moved into the former Sears/Kmart store.

That move wasn’t entirely a surprise given KMart’s long problems, said John Matthews, of RMD Inc., the real estate arm of Market Basket’s parent company, Demoulas.

“We were prepared if things go bad, we will put the Market Basket in there. This is exactly what happened,” he told the chamber audience.

Demoulas often owns the plazas where the grocery stores reside, including Somerset Plaza and Westside Plaza also on Amherst Street.

Also in Somerset Plaza, L.A. Fitness is replacing the former Market Basket location and the city’s first stand-alone Chick-fil-A restaurant is being built next to the Amherst Street entrance.

Behind the plaza, a 118-room Residence Inn is being built. Further east, the area’s first Service Credit Union will open soon. Closer to Exit 8 of the turnpike, construction continues on the state’s first Whole Foods grocery, which will replace another former Market Basket, while a retail plaza is being built on the opposite side of Amherst Street, replacing the former Nashua Motor Express building.

All this activity helps cement Amherst Street’s long reputation as the center of commerce and business in the region, said Kerrie Diers, executive director of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission.

“Eighty-five percent of all jobs in the (Greater Nashua) region are within a quarter mile of 101A or the turnpike,” she said.

She also acknowledged many people’s impression of 101A as a traffic nightmare.

“We’re sort of the victim of our own success,” she said.

And while some widening projects are slated for portions of Amherst Street, the long-term solution to congestion must include public transit and pedestrian capacity, she said.

“You can only widen the corridor so much.”

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).