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This city GIS mapping image shows the approximate area being considered for a park and ride and a potential rail station on Crown Street.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cabinet maker may furnish a future downtown rail station for Nashua under proposal

NASHUA – The city hopes to fashion a park and ride lot out of the home of a custom cabinet manufacturer.

A parking lot isn’t the city’s ultimate hope for the Crown Street site, however. The location has been tagged for the city’s downtown commuter rail station, if commuter rail ever makes its way to southern New Hampshire.

Under a resolution that was scheduled to be presented Tuesday to the Board of Aldermen, the city would purchase the 25 Crown St. property of Armstrong Cabinets.

According to the city’s website, the parcel consists of 5.88 acres assessed at $1.21 million.

The cabinet manufacturer would remain at the location until 2013, leasing its space from the city, under the proposal. Immediately, the city could use part of the site as parking spaces for a park and ride bus stop, said Tom Galligani, the city’s economic development director.

The proposal is to buy the location for $1.425 million. The money would be part of a larger Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant the city received five or six years ago to develop a site for a rail station in south Nashua, Galligani said.

Those plans were put on the slow track, as the site never was developed and plans for commuter rail met with hostile forces in state government.

But when the Armstrong site came on the market, “We jumped at the opportunity,” he said.

The state grant was revised before the Nashua Regional Planning Commission to include development of a rail station on Crown Street, he said.

The site is perfect as a downtown rail station because it lies along 800 feet of straight railway, Galligani said.

That’s unusual, as railroad tracks twist and curve as they wind through the downtown area, he said.

Even as Armstrong remains at the site as a tenant, part of the location could be used as a parking lot immediately, Galligani said.

“They don’t use the whole site,” he said of the cabinet-maker.

Less certain is what happens down the road, if and when the site is converted to a rail station. Galligani noted there’s a large warehouse in the back of the property that could be razed. It remains to be seen whether the main building would be renovated or razed, he said.

Also uncertain is what would happen to Armstrong after 2013. The location lies in a cramped area a block south of East Hollis Street. Galligani wasn’t sure if Armstrong was looking to expand at another location, and a manager for the company didn’t immediately return a phone call Tuesday morning.

“Long term, we’d like that to be our downtown station. Getting there will take many steps,” Galligani said.

The first step was scheduled to happen Tuesday in the aldermanic chamber, where the proposed legislation for the city to buy the land would have its first reading. After that, it will be assigned to at least one aldermanic subcommittee, where the resolution will be vetted before returning to the full board for a final vote.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashuatelegraph.com.