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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Submit your own design for Nashua parkway neighborhood

NASHUA – If it worked for Greece’s Acropolis and New York’s Central Park, maybe it can also work in this old mill city.

Those famed spots benefited from a competition on how they would be designed, as Tim Nickerson likes to point out.

Nickerson is chairman of the Nashua International Design Competition, an effort to solicit ideas on how Millyard Technology Park and its neighborhood should look after completion of the Broad Street Parkway.

The city hopes the parkway – a two-lane thoroughfare that will pass the Nashua River and connect Broad Street with the downtown – will be open to traffic by the end of 2014.

Once traffic starts moving on the parkway, the city expects business in the somewhat dormant Millyard to awaken. But the city could also seize this moment of growth and embark on some urban renewal.

That’s where the design competition enters the process.

In August, a nine-person jury opened the competition to anyone interested in designing how the Millyard and Tree Streets neighborhood should look with the parkway as a connector.

It’s a blind competition, meaning jurors won’t know who submitted designs. This allows for a more natural, unbiased judging of work, Nickerson said.

It allows not only professional architects and designers to forward ideas, but anyone who has an interest in reshaping the area, he said.

“With a community like the Millyard that was once vibrant and faded a bit, and looking for a resurgence, it makes sense to engage” everyone, Nickerson said.

The deadline for submissions is Jan. 11. Nickerson said he didn’t believe any entries had been submitted yet, but that’s to be expected with a month left.

A sure sign the competition has generated interest, Nickerson said, is the visitor list of NashuaDesignCompetition.com.

The Web site has had more than 4,000 visits, and 1,300 repeat visits, Nickerson said. Visitors have hailed from 99 countries, he said.

Nickerson has answered about 20 questions on the competition, and taken phone calls and e-mails from people in China, Germany, Poland and Spain.

Entrants must include a design for the intersections of Central, Ledge and Pine streets with the southern terminus of the parkway, as well as a design for the intersection of Technology Way and the parkway.

Submissions should also include a design for the streetscape of the parkway in the Millyard, designs for the connections of the parkway to the commercial properties in the Millyard and proposals for “innovative” redevelopment opportunities for Millyard properties, according to the competition Web site.

Aldermen approved the city financing the competition’s $5,000 grand prize. Rather than dividing the money for three place awards, the jury decided $5,000 would prove more enticing to entrants, Nickerson said. Those who finish second and third can have bragging rights, he said.

A benefit of the competition is it will generate public discussion on the Millyard and surrounding neighborhoods as the city moves forward with the Broad Street Parkway, Nickerson said.

“Some people may say some designs could be a pipe dream,” Nickerson said.

But if tiny elements of one design or several designs are eventually used to reshape the landscape, the city will have benefited, he said. Property owners in the area may also borrow ideas from the designs, he said.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-6528 or amckeon@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow McKeon on Twitter (@Telegraph_AMcK).