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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Group plans development on Nashua waterfronts

By DARRELL HALEN
Correspondent

City officials in Burlington, Vt., a community roughly half the size of Nashua,
plan to spend $9 million
to upgrade its waterfront
and expect the tax base
to grow $44 million.

That's a piece of information that Gene Porter, chairman of the Lower Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee, plans to share soon with a group of Nashua aldermen. ...

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City officials in Burlington, Vt., a community roughly half the size of Nashua,
plan to spend $9 million
to upgrade its waterfront
and expect the tax base
to grow $44 million.

That's a piece of information that Gene Porter, chairman of the Lower Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee, plans to share soon with a group of Nashua aldermen.

Porter plans to make a presentation, focusing on Nashua's riverfronts and their untapped development opportunities, to the Board of Aldermen's Planning and Economic Development Committee. He wants to see more people living, working and having access to the city's rivers.

"All over New England, riverfront cities are investing in waterfront amenities, particularly greenways and river walks, along the rivers that form a visual front to the river behind which they build apartment buildings and businesses and it just grows," he said.

Porter's presentation will share core principals of riverfront development, including the idea that the riverfront should be featured as the "front door," the development should enhance the environment, the riverfront's history should be showcased, people should be able to access the water, and construction should include high quality architectural materials and sustainable engineering practices.

In addition to Burlington, other communities are putting money in their waterfronts, including development on the Connecticut River by Dartmouth College in Hanover.

"When I talk to the aldermen, I will just demonstrate to them, show them, that lots of other cities are investing in their waterfronts," Porter said.

Recently, Porter, an antique boat owner, took Mayor Jim Donchess on a boat tour, and he credits Donchess' predecessor, Donnalee Lozeau, for getting the city to pay more attention to river issues and creating the position of waterways manager. That job is held by Madeleine Mineau.

"Nashua has done a good job getting started on that in downtown Nashua on the Nashua River, and the next logical step in my view is focusing more on the Merrimack River," he said of development, adding that he believes there are good opportunities for it on city- and utility-owned land on the Merrimack.

The advisory committee that Porter chairs acts as watchdogs and stewards over activities in the lower Merrimack River Corridor, which includes Nashua, Litchfield, Hudson and Merrimack.

Porter considers the Merrimack River a "wild and beautiful" river that is largely unknown to the community. The river in its entirety is 117 miles long and flows south from Franklin, New Hampshire, into Massachusetts and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

"You've got an opportunity here for adding riverfront development that could enhance the city," Porter said.

There are, however, issues that need to be addressed, he notes. These include contamination and obstructions, and the need for organization and money. Public access is essential for public support.

Porter would like to see residential developments, including the planned Residences at Riverside Landing, near Bridge Street, provide people with access to the Merrimack River.

He would also like to see the Greeley Park Boat Ramp refurbished and the downtown river walk along Nashua River extended to the Merrimack. And he's pleased about the creosote remediation work being done at the Beazer East property, nearly 100 acres in size, on the Merrimack.

"My organization is happy that they're finally getting to it," he said.