NASHUA — One-hundred-nine new riverside apartments are on the horizon for downtown Nashua.
Cotton Mill Square — a revitalization of a 108-year-old historic mill building on Front Street — will feature 55 affordable apartment and 54 market units, in addition to revitalizing a dam and removing some 70 properties from the flood plain, developers say.
“I think the project will be great for downtown,” said Jim Vayo, assistant project manager at Renaissance Downtowns real estate company. “There's been some demand for that type of housing in the city, and there's almost no new downtown living options in Nashua for young people.”
The developer is the Stabile Company, which worked with several organizations over six years to make it happen. After all that time, and a string of setbacks and complications, Stabile is looking to breaking ground in September.
The $26 million project received approval from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, in addition to city, state and federal agencies.
“With the utilization of these tax credits and the cooperation of the city and the state in getting us home funds, (HUD section) 108 funds, and other funds, the project is now viable,” said company owner John Stabile said.
The project will make improvements to the Jackson Falls Dam on the Nashua River, which will be lowered by about five feet. Five crest gates will be installed, consisting of steel plates covered in Kevlar, hydraulically raised and lowered according to the demand of the river.
Stabile said crest gates have been in use for more than 40 years, and are currently being used in Lowell and Lawrence, Mass., and other New England locations.
The site, contaminated with asbestos, PCB-containing materials and lead paint, will be fully remediated. And 1,200 feet of the Riverwalk along the Nashua River will also be added to the existing path.
According to Stabile, the project jumpstarts neighborhood transition by removing the abandoned warehouses, creating green space and cleaning up 740 lineal feet of overgrown riverfront.
“It also provides the economic stimulus of bringing 109 households to downtown Nashua, and advances Nashua's master plan with strong, sustainable development that is consistent with the city's long-term goals,” he said.
Cotton Mill Square comes as Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau has expressed interest in tearing down the Bronstein projects, a 48-unit housing complex about a mile away from the Cotton Mill.
Though he's worked closely with the mayor on the project, Stabile said the one project has nothing to do with the other. Cotton Mill Square will feature mainly one and two-bedroom units, whereas Bronstein accommodates larger families.
The building will be owned by the Stabile Co. and none of the units will be available for sale. It will create about 240 jobs, according to Stabile, not only in construction but in maintenance, security, landscaping and property management.
Of the 55 affordable units, 11 will fall under Section 8, 10 will be at or below 50 percent of the average medium income, 24 will be at 60 percent, and 10 will be at 80 percent. The remaining 54 units will be listed at market rate.
Clocktower Place is the precedent for its forthcoming neighbor across the river. With 326 units, Clocktower offers a reduced rental program, with rent depending on income.
“You could say if you like Clocktower Place, you'll like this,” Stabile said. “It's the same mixed-income housing.”
Stabile said small families and people who want to live and work downtown are expected to populate the eight-story Cotton Mill Square, especially those who work at the two downtown hospitals.
Young professionals are another target, as well as older folks looking to downsize and live within walking distance of downtown's offerings.
Asked if there was community involvement in the development of a plan, Stabile said no. Nor has there been much opposition.
“You're going to drop 200-and-some-odd people into that area,” he said. “It's going to help if it's walking distance from downtown.”
Jim Vayo supported the idea. “There's plenty for people 55-and-up with Palm Square (downtown senior housing). But what we really need is downtown living options for young people to stay in our state.”
“I think it can only serve to strengthen the neighborhood that is downtown Nashua. The more people you have living in downtown, the larger the economy of downtown is going to grow.”
And Vayo said this will be a boon to downtown merchants who complain about lack of customers.
If everything goes as planned, tenants will begin moving into Cotton Mill Square by December 2013, Stabile said.