Riverfront plans flowing forward

NASHUA – City leaders have grand plans for upgrading the areas around the Nashua River, including a continuous riverwalk that connects downtown, surrounding neighborhoods, the Broad Street Parkway and Mine Falls Park.

In the meantime, however, officials have to deal with some invasive species that are getting a grip on the area. During the Tuesday Ward 2 town hall-style meeting with Mayor Jim Donchess at Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, Community Development Director Sarah Marchant said officials are in the process of getting all the permitting to remove the invasive species along the edge of the river. She expects to have that by this fall.

Marchant said the city is working on tree removal on the south bank, as there are trees covered in invasive species, although she made it clear that this will not cause a bunch of erosion or soils to be disturbed.

Once the invaders are removed, officials will get to work on the ambitious project. The riverfront is broken into three quadrants for this project: the Millyard, Greeley House and Cotton Mill Transfer Bridge and Jackson Falls. The scope of the project includes a 1.8-mile section of the Nashua River from Mine Falls Park, working its way upstream where it will end at the Bridge Street bridge. There are six major priorities for this project: connectivity, environmental stewardship, access to the river, recreation and green space, flood resiliency, and economic development.

The plan features a number of amenities, including seasonal docks located within the river, as well as cantilevered walkways/bridges along the river’s edge. As far as connectivity goes, the plan is to have a continuous riverwalk that connects downtown, surrounding neighborhoods, the Broad Street Parkway and Mine Falls Park.

“We are so close to Mine Falls Park, the jewel in the center of the city, and you really don’t know it,” Marchant said. “It’s less than a three-minute walk.”

As far as access to the river goes, the plan includes creating visual and physical opportunities to access to the river throughout the riverfront area, with a priority on a new dock structure and fountains west of the Main Street bridge. Marchant said a fountain is in order, and that they are really finding a way to add a lot of public green space that can be active and that the community can enjoy as part of downtown.

The project aims to preserve existing green space and add new green space, which includes improvements to Parc de Notre Renaissance Francaise on Water Street. Furthermore, the plan includes promoting flood resiliency in future riverfront development and retrofitting or relocating infrastructure to improve flood resiliency when possible. The plan prioritizes the electrical substation on Front Street. Lastly, when it comes to economic development, the plan aims to capture value created by new development along the river to make capital improvements.

On that note, Donchess said the river can be an even more beautiful place for Nashua people and to attract new residents. He said no community can prosper if it does not have a vibrant generation of younger people. So, this project, among other initiatives occurring across the city, will help to attract and retain those younger populations.

“In the back of our minds at all times is the fact that Nashua is an aging community,” Donchess said. “If we’re going to prosper, and do well in the future, this needs to be a place where our young people want to stay and we can attract new, young families to fill in the younger ranks of the community.”

Marchant also showed attendees a short video of a drone flight on the river, which shows drawn in concepts of what officials hope the riverfront will look like in the future.

Donchess and the Board of Aldermen have also enacted a tax increment financing (TIF) district which will help pay for the work.

TIF is a tool that allows governments to use the funds generated by an increase in a property’s value to pay for the work that creates the value. For example, if installing a new facade on a government-owned building will increase the value of said building by $300,000, TIF would allow the government to capture that $300,000 to pay for installing the facade.

“In partnership with Tim Cummings, the Economic Development director, we are working on bringing in consulting team to help us permit all these cantilever bridges and move the project forward,” Marchant said.

The next Nashua ward town hall-style meeting is set for 7 p.m. June 12 at Bicentennial Elementary School, 296 E. Dunstable Road.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.