Town Hall draws huge crowd

NASHUA – Bicentennial Elementary School’s library was jam packed with Ward 8 residents Wednesday night as Mayor Jim Donchess facilitated his fourth town hall-style meeting of the year.

He conducts these meetings every year in each neighborhood to update city residents on what is going on in the city, as well as to gather input on what they believe is most important in their respective neighborhoods. While the library filled, many attendees were left standing around bookshelves. Donchess said Wednesday’s meeting seemed to have the best attendance of any so far this year.

Much of the discussion circulated around a private meeting that occurred during the weekend John Flatley Co. officials regarding the possibility of adding a housing development in the area. However, only those property owners who directly abut the site were invited, and so many attendees were left out of the loop as far as what the plan is. Alderwoman Mary Ann Melizzi Golja said by law, Flatley is only required to invite the people who are direct abutters to this piece of property.

However, Donchess said there has been no plan submitted to the city.

“There is no proposal before the city at this time, so that’s one reason that you haven’t heard about it, because there’s no proposal submitted,” Donchess said. “All that happened was that last Saturday, which is ,what, four days ago, the Flatley Co. held a meeting for some abutters and presented some plans to that group of neighborhood residents.”

A story regarding that situation will be forthcoming. In any event, since Donchess took office three and a half years or so ago, the city has been focused on strengthening the economy and growing the tax base, while expanding opportunities for as many people as possible. He said the city has added multiple jobs such as Amazon opening some jobs at a location off Amherst Street, BAE Systems and others. However, in addition to that job growth, he hinted at something the city has been working hard on, which is to bring the Pennichuck Water Works headquarters back to downtown Nashua from Merrimack.

“That looks like its about a 95% possibility at this time,” Donchess said. “They would relocate in the courthouse oval, as we know it, in that former courthouse space.”

He said the city has worked very hard to persuade them. Despite owning Pennichuck, the city has limited control. In any event, if Pennichuck did move to that currently vacant downtown space, Donchess said that would bring along with it 60 to 70 jobs to the city.

“In addition to the job front, we’re trying to bring about economic development in our downtown because it is a strong development opportunity,” Donchess said. “We have seen disinvestment in downtown neighborhoods for a long time, meaning not a lot of private money has been invested in a lot of the streets, the neighborhoods right around downtown.”

In comparison to other cities throughout the state, he said Nashua is a relatively affluent community. While looking out across the many Ward 8 residents before him, he said the south end is a relatively affluent part of the city. However, the same cannot be said for the heart of the city in and around Main Street.

“The downtown (U.S. Census Bureau) district around Main Street is the poorest census district out of 293 census districts in New Hampshire,” Donchess said.

The Downtown Business District, including the millyards, is about a quarter-mile portion out of 30-plus square miles in the city. That quarter-mile stretch generates $6 million in property taxes, which Donchess said is disproportionate to anything else except for Daniel Webster Highway and Amherst Street.

So, in order to strengthen the customer base for downtown businesses, strengthen the business climate there, raise property values, provide housing options for people who live in Nashua, and in order to present options that millennials and Gen-Z folks would be attracted toward to come live and work in Nashua, the city has worked to develop more downtown housing.

“The effort here is to strengthen the business climate downtown, make Nashua a more attractive place for everyone to live, build a strong downtown tax base, which in the end, can help provide more than $6 million to help subsidize, provide services throughout the community,” Donchess said.

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