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April 02. 2014 10:43PM

Idea of High Street hotel floated in Nashua

NASHUA — While city officials contemplate whether to sell the High Street parking lot to a developer for future apartments, a new proposal has been floated to also consider a hotel for the prime downtown parcel.

“I am not sure there is a viable plan for that, but it was requested as an option,” said Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy.

On Tuesday, the aldermanic Planning and Economic Development Committee met with representatives from the city’s Business and Industrial Development Authority to discuss a proposed resolution to sell or lease the High Street parking lot, now owned by the city, to a future housing developer.Alderman-at-Large James Donchess is recommending that housing be constructed on the parking lot property that could offer at least 60 units and be built at least four stories high. The lot currently holds up to 75 parking spaces.

McCarthy has drafted an amendment to Donchess’s proposal, which would still issue a request for proposals for the housing units, but, as an alternative, also allow an RFP for a downtown hotel offering daily occupancy and use by city visitors.

McCarthy’s amendment, which was only introduced and not voted on by the committee, also encourages first-floor retail use that is compatible with the downtown area, and provides aldermanic control over future use of the property.

Although McCarthy has raised the alternative hotel option, he acknowledges there may not be any developers interested in pursuing the High Street site for a hotel, which he admits is a condensed and unusual layout.

“Plus, I am not sure there is a lot of demand for another hotel,” he told the New Hampshire Union Leader, adding it is still good to provide different options for potential developers.

Don Zizzi, member of the BIDA, warned the committee about placing limitations on an RFP that could turn away private investors.“This is an opportunity, and you hate to see an opportunity missed,” said Zizzi, encouraging a broader approach. “Vision is important … that is how success happens.”

Some properties surrounding the High Street municipal parking lot may not generate the best or highest use for the city or their landlords, according Zizzi, who suggested knocking on doors and getting everyone involved in the conversation.He said the BIDA would welcome the opportunity to further investigate those possibilities.

“This project is going to take a lot more conversation,” echoed Jack Tulley, chairman of the BIDA, whose mission is to convert underutilized properties and restore them to the tax rolls.

Alderman-at-Large Dan Moriarty, chairman of the committee, agreed that the scope of discussion should be expanded as part of a larger vision for the Gate City.

Moriarty stressed that one of his priorities is to create more jobs for residents who already live in Nashua.

The chance for success with the High Street proposal will increase greatly if the RFP is not limited to just one parcel, and the idea of 60 units can be amended, according to Zizzi.

There are several housing projects under way or in the initial phases downtown. A proposal from R.J. Finlay Co. at the Indian Head Plaza site, 30 Temple St., could incorporate future parking, retail and residential housing to that area of the city.

Meanwhile, the Cotton Mill Square project, a $25 million housing project, has converted a 108-year-old historic building on Front Street to more than 100 apartment units.

Renaissance Downtowns is constructing 228 apartment units at 70 Bridge St., the first phase of an extensive waterfront development project that will serve as an eastern gateway into the city and include courtyards, a park, community pool, boulevard and public promenade.

khoughton@newstote.com


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