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Nashua officials push for vote on medical center leases

Union Leader Correspondent

September 08. 2013 9:40PM

NASHUA — Two aldermen are trying to fast track two lease agreements with Southern New Hampshire Medical Center despite a request by the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure for more information.

City officials are contemplating whether to issue two new lease agreements with the hospital, which would solve an ongoing dispute over a city-owned downtown parking lot now leased by SNHMC but desired by CVS pharmacy.

Two weeks ago, the committee delayed voting on the agreements, and instead is seeking plans on a preliminary proposal by CVS to move its pharmacy closer to Main Street and build a drive-through.

“While we have reached an agreement on conceptual plans, those plans have not been engineered or put in final form pending the approval of the proposed lease of the city parking lot to SNHMC,” says a letter by Rick Dube, director of real estate for CVS Realty Co., to Alderman Mark Cookson, committee chairman.

This week, Aldermen Arthur Craffey and Richard Dowd intend to seek a vote by the full Board of Aldermen on the two lease agreements even though the committee has not finished its inquiry or made a final recommendation on the matter.

“We are both growing concerned that failure by the board to expeditiously review (the agreements) will compromise a unique opportunity for the City of Nashua to promote redevelopment on this critical downtown corner,” Craffey and Dowd wrote in a memo to Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president.

The memo went on to say the three parties involved — CVS, the city and the hospital — have worked in good faith to craft an agreement that will spur economic development today and create the framework for substantial development in the future, according to Craffey and Dowd.

The new lease agreements would allow the hospital to continue renting an 80-spot city-owned parking lot and then sublease 37 spots to CVS. This would potentially enable CVS to move its pharmacy closer to Main Street and build a drive-through, while also providing adequate space for the hospital to eventually construct a multi-story parking garage and future medical office building near the site.

Last month, Alderman James Donchess argued that the city’s downtown master plan is in sharp contrast with the proposal to move CVS closer to Main Street.

“There is no way that conforms to the master plan,” he said at the time, explaining the downtown master plan recommends a mixed-use multi-level retail building at the corner of East Hollis Street and Main Street. “Shouldn’t we know the value of what we are giving up?”

Donchess then requested additional information from CVS on its preliminary design, which was ultimately supported by the committee.

Craffey and Dowd, however, are arguing that the committee’s request is setting an unintentional precedent for the board.

“Requests to see and evaluate plans for a site adjacent to the parking lot in question — review that is typically done by the Planning Board — may further complicate an already long review process,” they wrote in their recent memo to McCarthy.

They intend to bring forward the proposed resolution at Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

According to Dube, definitive plans by CVS will only be established after the proposed lease agreements are finalized.

“We understand and appreciate the complexity of such a project, and know that is must go through the necessary approval process before any construction can begin,” he said. “We are confident that the redevelopment of such an important corner in Nashua will enhance this area and provide better service to the citizens of Nashua.”

Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Nashua City

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