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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Nashua’s historic Waste House building likely to be demolished

As efforts are underway to preserve one of Nashua’s historic landmarks, the final curtain is closing on another century-old fixture in the Millyard.

The city has failed to identify anyone interested in relocating and restoring the 19th-century Millyard building known as the Waste House. ...

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As efforts are underway to preserve one of Nashua’s historic landmarks, the final curtain is closing on another century-old fixture in the Millyard.

The city has failed to identify anyone interested in relocating and restoring the 19th-century Millyard building known as the Waste House.

Work is slated to begin this fall on the southern leg of the Broad Street Parkway, and with the Waste House standing in the way, it’s now all but certain the building will be destroyed.

“The status is that the city
really has exhausted all opportunities for finding a place within the Millyard historic district to relocate it,” parkway project manager John Vancor said, “and so at this point, the city has informed the state that the intention is to demolish the Waste House to allow for construction of the parkway.”

Nashua previously agreed to try to preserve the Waste House and the 165-foot-tall Millyard chimney, hallmarks of an industrial past that is being partially paved over by the Broad Street Parkway. The agreement to preserve the structures came as part of a deal to secure millions in federal funding for the project.

The Waste House dates to 1896. Also known as the D.H. Shea Building, the brick structure was previously used to gather, sort and package cotton waste.

A memorandum of agreement among Nashua, the Federal Highway Administration and the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources obligates the city to relocate the Waste House within the Nashua Manufacturing Company Historic District and to perform further studies to “confirm the preliminary conclusion that relocation of the Waste House is feasible and reasonable.”

As part of its study efforts, the city consulted with engineering experts to ensure it would be possible to move the building. They determined the move would be feasible, and would likely cost $500,000 or more.

The city set aside money within the Broad Street Parkway budget to pay for relocation costs, provided it could find a developer or another Millyard property owner willing to take on the challenge of putting the building to use.

That task proved more challenging. The city put the building up for sale in 2012, offering it to any buyer who could renovate the building and reuse it in a manner that “contributes positively to the cultural integrity and economy of the Nashua Millyard.”

Vancor said the city made a significant effort to shop the building around, but there were no takers. At a minimum, fixing up the 40- by 70-foot structure would have entailed utility work and cleaning up any asbestos within.

“It gets to be an expensive project,” Vancor said.

Among those who dabbled with the idea of revamping the building was local developer John Stabile, who said he was approached by Board of Public Works Commissioner Kevin Moriarty to discuss the project.

“I viewed the building and, because the building is a brick structure, I felt it would be pretty cost prohibitive to move the building, with the damage that would occur during the movement,” Stabile said.

Earlier this month, Moriarty suggested a recent decision by the Board of Aldermen turned Stabile off of the project. In May, aldermen voted against providing a voluntary payment of $100,000 to Stabile’s company to help offset the cost of repairs to the Jackson Falls Dam. City officials had previously set aside money left over in the annual budget to make the payment.

Moriarty chided the Board of Aldermen for potentially hurting the city’s reputation in the eyes of local developers. He said Stabile has no interest in working with the city under the “present administration,” referring to the Board of Aldermen.

“Those type of things have a ripple effect,” Moriarty said.

Stabile declined to comment on whether the board’s action influenced his views on buying the Waste House.

City officials have expressed support for saving the Millyard chimney, which is undergoing a $762,000 preservation project, but some are ambivalent about whether the Waste House has enough historical value to merit a significant investment.

“The problem is the dollars are big and the value of what we get in the end is hard to establish,” Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy said in March.

Ward 5 Alderman Michael Soucy said he’d rather invest in other aspects of the Broad Street Parkway project, such as the railings on three bridges being constructed on the parkway.

Alderman-at-Large Jim Donchess said the Waste House is one of the least historically valuable buildings in the Millyard, since it was constructed later than most others. However, decisions to preserve history have paid off in other communities, he said. In Portsmouth, for instance, a choice to preserve Strawbery Banke has rendered a major tourist attraction.

“These historical things do have value,” Donchess said.

The city is finalizing construction plans for the southern portion of the parkway. Vancor said the city would need to demolish the Waste House by this fall to make way for the road.

“We’re coming up to the time where we’re simply going to be out of time,” he said.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).