Renaissance project transforming city’s eastern gateway
NASHUA – Nearly 150 years ago, the owners of a fledgling manufacturing firm rooted in Maine arrived in a small industrial city called Nashua, their purpose to look around town for property suitable for building a factory in the growing city.
They would select a partially wooded peninsula of land at the confluence of the Nashua and Merrimack rivers, from which they could look east to tiny neighboring Hudson, and the narrow, wooden toll bridge that carried foot, horse and carriage traffic back and forth between the two communities.
Come 1874, the new factory was built and ready for occupancy, setting the stage for the founding of Maine Manufacturing Company, which would put to work dozens, then scores, of Nashua and Hudson residents for generations.
Now, the final remnants of the manufacturing complex are fading to memories, gradually replaced by a massive redevelopment project that is well on its way to creating hundreds of units of rental housing along with retail space, but drastically improve the appeal of Nashua’s so-called “eastern gateway.”
On the 20 or so acre property where Maine Manufacturing once designed, built and patented “ice boxes,” and later, electric White Mountain Refrigerators, a Renaissance Downtowns-inspired development called Riverfront Landing Residences is now about two-thirds complete under general contractor SMC, which purchased the property from Renaissance Downtowns roughly two years ago.
According to city economic development director Tim Cummings, the project has been steadily moving forward.
“Since the groundbreaking (in December 2016), we’ve constructed 152 (apartments) … and it’s gone gangbusters,” Cummings said.
One apartment building is already fully occupied, and nearly half the units in a second building are either spoken for or have begun welcoming their new occupants.
Shauna Riley, Riverfront Landing property manager, said the first building became ready for occupancy on March 1, and was full by May.
Also recently completed, is a separate, 10,000 square-foot, two-story building with retail units on the first floor and space for a good-sized restaurant on the second, Riley said.
With the first two buildings just about complete, “we’re now pivoting and starting to focus on the third phase,” Cummings said.
He referred to the third apartment building, work on which was put on hold for a time to allow for additional site work that officials deemed necessary.
“We’re hoping to have the groundbreaking in the spring,” he said.
Meanwhile, going on concurrently with the Riverfront project is the redesign of the East Hollis and Bridge streets intersection, a project that motorists and neighborhood residents will be quick to say is long overdue.
Preliminary engineering work on the site has whittled the field of potential redesign proposals to three, Cummings said, and the next step is to present them to the public, chiefly residents of the area.
That will happen at a public forum scheduled for 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 15 at the Dr. Crisp Elementary School, 50 Arlington St. “We invite the community to look at these proposals and discuss them,” Cummings said.
“That’s the next key step – to improve the infrastructure in that section of the city,” he said, adding that while the projects aren’t directly related, “they go hand in hand.”
Illustrations of each of the three proposals, and other details are available at www.nashuagatewayproject.com.
Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Telegraph_DeanS.