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Riverwalk Apartments ready for first tenants

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 27. 2016 10:05PM
The long-awaited apartment complex along the Merrimack River next to the ballpark is almost complete. Shown here facing west with the Uncanoonuc Mountain peaks in the background. 

MANCHESTER - Quartz countertops and balcony views of the Merrimack River will greet some renters of apartments rising next to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

The first renters are expected to move next month into Riverwalk Apartments, where monthly rents will run from $1,050 for a studio (502 square feet) to around $2,000 for a two-bedroom unit (1,020 square feet).

Boston-area developer Stephen Chapman is putting his firm's money where he thinks the market is.

SMC Management Corp. out of Watertown, Mass., is building 238 apartments in Manchester - including 88 apartments in the building that once housed Hesser College - with plans for another 228 units in Nashua.

"I'm very bullish on southern New Hampshire, and I'm very bullish in the area in and around Manchester because it has demographics superior to any other city in New Hampshire," Chapman, SMC's principal partner, said last week.

SMC also late last year bought Waterford Place Apartments, 384 units off of Hackett Hill Road in Manchester.

The vacancy rate for rental housing is running at less than 2 percent in Hillsborough County, which includes Manchester and Nashua, according to a study released last month by New Hampshire Housing, which helps people obtain affordable housing.

"Low vacancy rates suggest that there is a need for additional rental housing construction to meet demand," said Executive Director Dean Christon.

Mike Skelton, president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said the area's economy is expanding.

"The growth in the Millyard from companies like Dyn, SNHU, PillPack and many others along with development around the airport and in Bedford are all fueling the need to ensure we have a diversity of housing options available to match the expectations of consumers," Skelton said.

SMC is spending $31 million on Riverwalk Apartments, which borders the riverwalk and is near the footbridge that spans the Merrimack.

"I happen to like what Manchester's doing in terms of the riverwalk, trying to make that a people-friendly area," Chapman said.

That site was initially being developed by Chinburg Builders with property taxes from residences helping to pay for the $27.5 million ballpark. SMC purchased the property, with most of the permitting already done, for $1.05 million, Chapman said.

Three five-story buildings, each with 50 apartments and one level of underground parking, includes brick and vinyl siding with the last building scheduled for completion by year's end. Renters in a few top-level apartments in the building closest to the ballpark will be able to see into right field, according to Sharon Breighner, senior regional manager at CP Management in Exeter, the property manager.

Chapman also is putting in 88 apartments in The Sundial Center of Commerce and Education off Queen City Avenue that should be finished by January. Square footage will range from 608 to 920 square feet with monthly rents between $1,200 and $1,700, though, they are subject to change, Brieghner said.

Chapman hopes to capture people taking newly created jobs in Londonderry, near Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, as well as those working within a few miles.

Meanwhile, another developer who built apartments units in the Citizens Bank building on Elm Street is asking between $1,400 and $3,000 a month, with the largest units covering 1,500 square feet.

"The cost of newer projects has not been a concern I have heard as I think everyone recognizes that we need a diversity of options that ranges from affordably priced units to higher-end luxury units," Skelton said. "The higher-end units are newer additions to our housing stock but are in line with the expectations of the employees of quality, high-paying jobs being offered in the Millyard and the region."

In Nashua, Chapman's company hopes to break ground in a month or two on the first two buildings of Residences at Riverfront Landing at Bridge Street where it crosses the Merrimack River, immediately south of where the Nashua and Merrimack rivers come together, according to Robert Simonds, SMC's director of capital projects.

The first 152 apartments should be finished by fall 2017. Work on the third building is expected to start in fall 2017 and be completed about a year later.

"People are choosing apartment living as a lifestyle choice," Chapman said.

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