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January 12. 2014 7:56PM

Nashua alderman proposes High Street housing project

NASHUA -- A city alderman is hoping to address a shortage of rental housing in the downtown area by exploring potential development options at the High Street parking lot.
 
Alderman-at-Large Jim Donchess has drafted a proposed resolution that -- if approved by the Board of Aldermen -- would allow the city to issue a Request for Proposals for the development of residential housing and possibly other mixed uses at the High Street parking lot site.
 
“I am convinced that we need to bring more people to live in the downtown area,” Donchess said on Sunday. “The more people we can bring to the downtown, the better.”
 
He is suggesting that housing be constructed on the parking lot property that could offer at least 60 units, and be built at least four-stories high. Currently, the lot holds between 60 and 75 parking spaces, according to Donchess.
 
“It is important for the future economic vitality of downtown that additional people be attracted to live downtown,” states the proposal. “There is a shortage of living options and new rental housing in Nashua’s downtown.”
 
According to the resolution, the High Street parking lot and the High Street parking garage are underutilized city assets. Although Donchess admits that the parking lot is used, he believes that sacrificing the parking spaces in order to promote a thriving downtown is well worth the tradeoff.
 
The parking lot, which is bound by High Street on the north and School Street on the south, could be developed for residential housing, and the parking garage could be used to provide parking for future residents, he said.
 
If new housing is constructed on the parking site, Donchess’ proposal indicates that it could generate $100,000 in annual property taxes, in addition to $40,000 a year in parking permit fees from the garage.
 
“The housing at Clocktower Place contributes significantly to the economic vitality of downtown, and similarly, housing at Cotton Mill Square will do the same once it is completed,” says the proposal.
 
By developing the municipal parking lot as well, Donchess believes it will not only increase the tax base, but also increase economic and social opportunities for the city.
 
He is suggesting that an RFP be issued for development, and that potential developers provide a conceptual site plan and floor plan, define the proposed architectural style and landscaping and also indicate their purchase price or annual rental payment to the city for the land.
 
The city’s Land Use Code would have to be amended to eliminate the requirement of on-site parking for the location, according to the resolution. In addition, parking permits should be issued to new tenants for the High Street Parking Garage so that sufficient parking is available, states the resolution.
Donchess admits that his proposal will need a lot of debate and discussion, and will likely not be approved quickly.
Still, he maintained that the issue of providing more downtown housing must be addressed soon, even if the resolution is not supported.
 
Aldermen will be presented with the resolution on Tuesday, at which time the proposal will have its first reading. The matter will be assigned to an aldermanic committee for further review and analysis before a final recommendation is made to the board.
 
Tuesday’s aldermen meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Nashua City Hall.

khoughton@newstote.com

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