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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Bridge Street Waterfront project, still 2 years away at least, tweaks apartment plan

NASHUA – The big development planned for the east end of Bridge Street will feature fewer but slightly larger apartments when it opens, perhaps by mid-2016.

Under an update approved Thursday by the Planning Board, the first building proposed for the Bridge Street Waterfront development has been broken into two facing structures, with the total number of units reduced from 76 to 66. ...

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NASHUA – The big development planned for the east end of Bridge Street will feature fewer but slightly larger apartments when it opens, perhaps by mid-2016.

Under an update approved Thursday by the Planning Board, the first building proposed for the Bridge Street Waterfront development has been broken into two facing structures, with the total number of units reduced from 76 to 66.

The change will involve fewer studio apartments and more one- or two-bedroom apartments, and change that is “market-driven,” said Ryan Porter, vice president of planning for Renaissance Downtown – in other words, the company thinks it can better rent a mix of apartments with more bedrooms than initially planned.

“We’re in the midst of finalizing partnership with Dakota Partners out of Massachusetts. They have a lot of local market knowledge,” Porter said.

Renaissance Downtown, a New York-based firm, is developing the site as part of an agreement with the city, which wants to take two dozen acres mostly holding older industrial buildings and turn it into a mixed-use, largely residential area that will be more welcoming to people entering the city from Hudson.

It would be accompanied by changes to the intersection of Bridge Street and East Hollis Street that city planners hope will open up areas south of East Hollis Street to more development.

The first phase of the apartment project is still targeting smaller units for older people who have sold their suburban home, and younger childless adults, who are interested in being within a city – part of what is sometimes called the new urbanism.

“One of the mantras of Renaissance as a company is that a demographic shift going on. A huge amount of millennials and Boomers are looking to downsize … and they want to be close to a downtown,” Porter said.

Similar thinking is being the just-opened Cotton Mill apartments in a former warehouse just west of Main Street downtown.

Bridge Street Waterfront is east of the downtown area, but developers hope that its location on the confluence of the two main local rivers will be compensation.

“It’s less than a mile from downtown and has more of a recreational opportunity to it because of proximity to the rivers,” Porter said.

As it now stands, the 9-acre project on the north side of Canal Street will eventually include 218 units in four buildings plus a restaurant and community center.

It is part of much bigger but vaguer plans for around 750 units on two dozen acres west to the railroad line, including an open field that formerly held a Johns Manville factory. There is no timeline for this project past the first phase, however, and details are likely to change.

The location alongside the city skateboard park at Veterans Bridge connecting with Hudson, is being worked on as part of a huge sewer project called the Combined Sewer Outflow. Work on the Bridge Street Waterfront can’t really start until that is finished.

There also are financing questions. The first phase, which could cost $36 million, will seek federal low-income housing tax credits, to supplement private financing.

“We’ll find out at the end of year if we were awarded credits,” Porter said. If all goes well, construction will begin next spring, with rentals starting by summer 2016, although completion of the project would probably be years later.

The change approved Thursday by the Planning Board turned a single C-shaped building for this first phase of the development into two facing rectangular buildings to better fit the units into the existing property and building footprint, Porter said.

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