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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    The former Building 19 on Amherst Street.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    A pedestrian strolls by Nashua Coin and Jewelry Wednesday, February 15, 2012, on Main Street. A new city ordinance will require buyers like these to hold items for at least 30 days, and convert from paper to electronic records.
Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bank could open at former Building 19 spot in Nashua

NASHUA – Among the possibilities for a future occupant of the former Building 19 lot, a bank tops the list.

On Tuesday, Gerald Prunier, a lawyer for AS-VR of Londonderry, convinced the Zoning Board of Adjustment that a variance approved in 1995 allows “banks with or without drive-throughs” along with virtually all other commercial uses, from supermarkets to cinemas. Prunier said his client, which owns the property at 420 Amherst St., has talked with a lending institution about locating a branch at the top of the land, but talking is as far as it’s gone.

Prunier said his client wants to settle zoning issues now as the local economy show signs of improving.

“We don’t have a bank to go there, nor do we have a deal for a bank to there,” he said. “What we do have is a design to show how it would fit in with a particular lot.”

Prunier filed requests for eight variances with the Zoning Board of Adjustment in December.

The land is considered environmentally sensitive because it sits atop aquifers that feed the city’s water supply.

There are no other plans for specific uses at this time for the property, which was targeted by Walmart six years ago for construction of a 127,000-square-foot store. Local environmental groups opposed the project, saying it would damage surrounding wetlands and aquifers beneath the surface that feed the city’s water supply.

In the end, the Planning Board rejected the project because of the amount of traffic the store would bring to busy Amherst Street.

Moreover, under a later court settlement, AS-VR agreed to never rent or sell its property to the retail giant.

The board said Tuesday that the variance for commercial uses was essentially the same as one it granted in 1995 that included just about every type of use except banks.

That was an oversight, Prunier said, and the board granted that zoning relief unanimously.

AS-VR also wanted relief on setbacks required for development of property, but the board tabled that request, citing the lack of specificity offered by the company on what could be proposed in the future.

Three people spoke against the variance requests, including Alderman-at Large Barbara Pressly who said, “I am opposed to the vagueness of his applicant.”

Last week, The Telegraph asked readers on its Facebook page what they would like to see in that spot. Whole Foods Market was the overwhelming favorite. Others were looking for new place to eat, with Sonic Drive-In and Arby’s as common responses.

Non-restaurant suggestions included a movie theater, and an indoor sports complex and entertainment venue. An indoor farmers market, dog park, an outdoor theater and a community garden also were suggested.

Tom West can be reached at