NASHUA — City officials approved a proposal this week that may eventually bring a hotel, performing arts venue or additional housing to the downtown area.
On Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen granted permission for the mayor and the city’s Business and Industrial Development Authority (BIDA) to issue a request-for-proposals for mixed-use development in the area of the High Street parking lot, School Street parking lot and a small parking lot on School Street behind the taxi stand.
Mixed-use buildings of at least four stories, which include retail use on the first floor and at least 60 residential units, will be considered along with a performing arts venue or a hotel to service business and recreational visitors, according to the resolution.
“There is a lot of under-utilized properties in that area,” said Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy, adding it is a good idea to consider a large-scale project for that section of downtown.
“I would like to be able to see what the potential is,” Alderman-at-Large Diane Sheehan said.
A request-for-proposals will be issued for development in the general area bound by School Street on the south, High Street on the north, the city-owned lot east of School Street on the east and the area known as ’the oval’ on the west.
Originally, aldermen were only considering housing units for the city-owned High Street parking lot site. But after speaking with the BIDA, officials were encouraged to consider a broader-scope project with additional sites and mixed uses, including a possible hotel or stand-alone performing arts center.
Expanding the scope of the project is worthwhile, according to Alderman Ken Siegel of Ward 9, who said the city may not receive any interest from potential developers if the request for proposals is limited and only one small parcel is available for consideration.
“I just have mixed feelings about this,” said Alderman Paul Chasse of Ward 6, who was concerned with the BIDA’s involvement in something Chasse said could be handled by city staff.
“I feel that we are giving up too much authority to these committees sitting out there,” said Chasse, who voted against the proposal.
McCarthy said there are real estate professionals on the BIDA who are looking out for the good of the city.
“I don’t see it as allocating our responsibility,” said McCarthy, stressing that BIDA members will help to produce a quality product.
“It is important for the future economic vitality of downtown that additional people be attracted to live downtown,” states the resolution authorized by aldermen, adding there is a shortage of living options and new rental housing in the downtown area. ” ... Downtown residents not only provide essential consumer spending for downtown businesses, but they also stimulate the development of various new businesses for a balanced mix of downtown uses.”