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Sunday, July 20, 2014

With hundreds more apartments being built, Gateway Hills near Exit 1 become visible

NASHUA – Major work continues on the huge Gateway Hills project off Spit Brook Road, but the latest steps, which include completing a loop road through the 200-acre development that runs alongside the F.E. Everett Turnpike, has raised its profile greatly.

Especially among southbound commuters. ...

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NASHUA – Major work continues on the huge Gateway Hills project off Spit Brook Road, but the latest steps, which include completing a loop road through the 200-acre development that runs alongside the F.E. Everett Turnpike, has raised its profile greatly.

Especially among southbound commuters.

The removal of some trees alongside the long ramp that leads south from Exit 2 as part of the loop road has made the extent of the development visible to Turnpike passers-by for the first time. This sudden visibility has spurred comments and questions in the community and even a bit of surprise from Kevin Walker, who as a civil engineer for developer John J. Flatley Co. drives around the development almost every day.

“I was surprised at how much you could see from the ramp. I hadn’t realized,” Walker said during a recent tour of the site, which has been under construction for about three years.

Not that there’s anything unexpected about the development, which started with 550,000 square feet of industrial space around what old-timers still call the Digital Equipment Corp. building, behind the Radisson Hotel near Exit 1 of the turnpike.

The area passed through several owners and lots of ideas for years, including plans to create a horse-racing track, until Flatley Co. consolidated the Digital site – now called Nashua Technology Park – with lots of wooded property into a 400-acre parcel in 2007. The recession delayed its plans, but Flatley eventually set out on what has become the biggest residential, industrial and retail development that Nashua has seen in many years.

The most obvious recent development is Tara Commons, a shopping and restaurant plaza on Spit Brook Road, but the bigger development was the opening of the first luxury apartment buildings as part of Tara Heights, with many more to come.

(The Tara names are a remnant of projects by the late Thomas Flatley, who built a number of hotels to echo castles of his native Ireland, including what is now the Radisson, and named them after the traditional seat of the historic king of Ireland.)

The first 210 apartments in Tara Heights opened last fall in five buildings of 36 units each, renting from $1,339 for a one-bedroom to $1,665 for a two-bedroom corner unit.

The complex has an outdoor saltwater pool, bicycle rentals and a community garden area.

Eight more apartment buildings are being built in Phase 2, the first of which should open to tenants in mid-August. They are four stories tall and will add 384 units when they are finished, perhaps this year.

At the same time, an extended-stay Hilton Homewood Suites hotel is being built behind the Radisson, catering to the business community now in the Technology Park, as well as future customers to a planned 240,000-square-foot research and development facility in the middle of the loop road.

In many ways, however, it’s the roads, which are sometimes still blocked while construction goes on, that make the complete Gateway Hills a reality.

It’s now possible to enter the development from the Radisson hotel, as well as driving up Tara Boulevard, and the just-completed loop road means all the buildings will be reachable from different directions. A paved biking/walking trail is also being built around the entire development.

One very big road issue remains, though: access.

The only way to get into Gateway Hills is via the stop light intersection on Spit Brook Road that leads to Tara Boulevard. A traffic study of south Nashua this year called it one of the five worst intersections in the city for delays, especially from 4-6 p.m. weekdays.

Flatley Co. representatives have said development of the northern 200 acres of their property will require a new connection to the Everett Turnpike, at least hooking into the southbound ramp from Exit 2, to relieve pressure from the Tara Boulevard intersection.

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