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February 12. 2014 10:13PM

Thomas More College buys Nashua property

NASHUA — Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has purchased the historic Frank E. Anderson House on Concord Street, and intends to use the former convent for school offices and eventually a dormitory.

“We are very close to reaching our maximum capacity with the buildings we have on our Merrimack campus. This purchase is an attempt to find a solution for our middle-term growth,” said William Fahey, president of the college. “This building answers our concerns beautifully.”

Fahey said the college purchased the building at 90 Concord St. before it officially went to auction. The facility, which was built in 1908 and once housed Mount Saint Mary School, had been on the market for about $2.3 million.

Although Fahey would not disclose the purchase amount, he stressed it was not anywhere close to $2.3 million. He described the building as stunning, adding the college intends to leave the exterior of the facility as is.

“We would like to renovate the interior of the building over the late spring or summer, so that in the fall we can use the property for administrative purposes, lectures and concerts for the community,” said Fahey.

Eventually, in a few years, he said the residential back wing of the building will be used as a dormitory for students. Thomas More College in Merrimack, Fahey said, is only about five minutes from the Nashua site.

Fahey said the college intends to keep the 20,000-square-foot building that was ultimately converted into an independent living residence for retired nuns in 1994 as an educational and Catholic landmark in Nashua.The college will present its plans to the Nashua City Planning Board on Feb. 20, seeking a conditional use permit for its proposal.

Engineer Richard Maynard has described the proposal as a future “adjunct or satellite campus” to the Merrimack school, according to a letter he wrote to Adam Varley, chairman of the Planning Board.

Fahey said he would probably not describe the new Nashua site as a satellite campus but does acknowledge it is an expansion of the school.

“The college currently has some 82 students, with a projected growth to 120 students in the next many years,” wrote Maynard. “The college plans to continue keeping the majority of its student body on the main campus. This satellite location, in time, will have a small number of students — under 20 to 40 — in the residential portion of the building.”

Fahey said he has already met with several Nashua neighbors, and Bishop Peter Libasci of the nearby Nashua Catholic School, to discuss the college’s plans. For the most part, he said, the majority of neighbors believe this is the best possible outcome for the site that has sat vacant for nearly two years.

Alderman-at-Large James Donchess said this week that the plans are a positive step toward providing active education once again at the historic, vacant building.

“I wish to welcome them to the neighborhood,” he said, adding it is a beautiful building.

Fahey agreed, saying the nuns have kept the facility in spectacular condition.

“We believe that given other realistic options, the continued use of the property as a school is excellent. Dr. Fahey was forthright, and is likely to be a good neighbor and caretaker of the property at 90 Concord St.,” said a letter written by several abutters to Roger Houston of the city’s planning department.The letter went on to say that the operations of the college would have minimal impact on the neighborhood and might even improve it.

“We were all in agreement that the college’s desire to see the building in continued educational use is very positive,” says the letter.About two years ago, the college announced that it purchased a 33-acre plot of land in Groton, Mass., where the school intends to relocate in the long-term future. This expansion into Nashua is a great opportunity — in the interim five years or so — to grow slowly before eventually utilizing the site in Massachusetts, according to Fahey.

khoughton@newstote.com


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