Nashua’s Railyard District project is starting to take shape
NASHUA – Two projects aimed at bringing more housing to downtown received approval during Thursday night’s Planning Board meeting, and will serve as the start of the new Railyard District.
“This is the beginning of the Railyard District,” Mayor Jim Donchess said. “It is a transformative project that is going to have a major beneficial effect on the neighborhood east of Main Street. There’s been very little private investment there over many decades.”
The two sites being eyed for these endeavors include the Henry Hanger Co. building of America on E. Hollis Street and the Corriveau-Routhier Inc. building on Temple Street.
The former Henry Hanger building is slated to be redeveloped into an 80-unit multi-family complex featuring studio, one-bed and two-bed units, including amenity spaces. There are two existing driveways that intersect the north side of E. Hollis Street that will provide access to the site. In addition, a portion of the building will be razed and a part of the existing pavement will be removed to allow for landscaping to be installed. The site is also serviced by Pennichuck Water, sewer and gas.
This project will feature approximately 68 parking spaces with some situated adjacent to the building, with the remainder located on an overflow parcel. A remote parking area will be constructed a short distance away on Temple Street, and a portion of the parcel at 158 Temple St. will be used for the overflow parking.
Furthermore, Corriveau-Routhier will be developed into two connected multi-family buildings with associated parking. This project features a total of 168 (84 for each building) dwelling units. There will be one- and two-bedroom apartments at market rate, and 252 parking spaces provided with seven spaces being handicap accessible.
At this site, there will be underground utilities, municipal sewer and Pennichuck Water will be provided.
Building 1 will feature amenity space within the ground floor, while building 2 will have ground floor parking. Access to the site will be provided by driveways that intersect the north side of Temple Street and the south side of Bridge Street.
“These projects will have a transformative and positive economic impact on the city, but more specifically in this area of the city, which we will hopefully start to think of as a neighborhood,” Director of Economic Development Tim Cummings said via email. “Under the Mayor’s leadership we are creating the burgeoning “Rail Yard District” following the recommendations of the East Hollis Street Area Plan, which calls for a mixed use walkable neighborhood.”
In letters sent to the Nashua City Planning Board dated August 6, Nashua Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Jay Minkarah said redeveloping these two sites could be of significant importance to the long-term efforts of restoring commuter rail to Nashua and the region. Both of this projects are situated nearby the Crown Street Park & Ride, which is the proposed site for the downtown Nashua commuter rail station.
“Should New Hampshire elect to move forward with the Capital Corridor project upon conclusion of the Project Development Phase, which is expected to begin within the coming year, the next critical step would be to apply for federal Small Starts or New Starts capital investment grants,” Minkarah wrote in his letters.
He continued on, citing that by law, the Federal Transit Administration is required to evaluate and rate applications for these nationally competitive grants based on criteria including significant economic development and land use components, with a particular emphasis on housing. According to his letter, by developing a significant number of higher-density, transit-oriented housing units within walking distance of the future commuter rail station would, therefore, likely improve the city’s chances of obtaining the federal funding needed to advance the Capital Corridor project.
Moreover, Donchess said the Temple Street project will feature from the ground up construction, while the E. Hollis Street project will be the conversion of a historic building. Both will add to the supply of housing in downtown, in a time when there is a definite demand for housing.
“Certainly those residences will have a positive impact for downtown businesses,” Donchess said.
He also said the city has a grant for the construction of the rail trail east of City Hall that runs all the way to the Henry Hanger building. This will allow for additional pedestrian/bicycle connection between the railyard district, the new residences and Main Street. He said the project will also improve some of the sidewalks in the area, and by doing this rail trail initiative, people will have a straight shot from these new projects to Main Street via both the rail trail and Temple Street.
“We’re working to make Nashua more walkable, and this helps with that,” Donchess said.
With the rail trail set to have more people out and about on city sidewalks, Cummings said this will also have an economic impact. He said the city will also see better connectivity and encourage less vehicular traffic with this new infrastructure upgrade.
“The City will realize a wonderful benefit when residents, whether it is those in the new projects just approved or existing residents take advantage of this pedestrian way to frequent the downtown and the businesses along it,” Cummings said via email.
He also said it is a proven strategy to help reduce traffic flow in what is an otherwise congested area. In any event, Planning Director with the City Roger Houston said the developers could start on these residential projects as quickly as they wish to now that they have both been approved.
“I think we’re all looking forward to seeing it when it’s completed,” Houston said.
Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.