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Woodmont Commons moves forward in Londonderry

By ELI OKUN
Union Leader Correspondent

August 12. 2016 9:25PM
The edge of the Market Basket plaza in Londonderry currently overlooks grass and trees, but it soon could be the gateway to a major mixed-use development. (Eli Okun/Union Leader correspondent)

LONDONDERRY — Phase one of the state’s largest economic development project, Woodmont Commons, is coming into clearer focus, with developers hoping to turn conceptual plans into a formal submission to the town Planning Board as early as next month.

The $1 billion walkable, mixed-use project — intended as an embodiment of the “live, work, play” maxim for attracting and retaining young people — could break ground on an access road before winter weather sets in. And if all goes well, the first tenants might start moving in within 18 months.

At a Planning Board meeting last week and in recent interviews, developers and town officials laid out the most detailed vision yet for Woodmont, located just off Route 102 near Interstate 93.

The first phase focuses on a 62-acre parcel just north of the Market Basket plaza, where 45 buildings would comprise 260 residential units, 164,000 square feet of retail space and 108,000 square feet of office space.

Woodmont looks to become a major new focal point in southern New Hampshire. But its first several years of development will be relatively self-contained within town, said Town Planner Colleen Mailloux.

“This phase isn’t changing the greater character of Londonderry,” she said, “but it’s creating sort of a new destination in the town.”

Specific tenants have yet to be announced. But the overall plans are unlikely to change drastically. “I wouldn’t say it’s set in stone, but it’s pretty close,” said John Vogl, the town’s GIS manager/comprehensive planner.

Current highlights include:

• A 135-room hotel.

• A two-building, four-story assisted living facility with 250 beds.

• A brewpub/brewery and multiple other restaurants.

• A music hall or other entertainment venue with about 350 seats.

• A mixture of apartments and townhouses, almost all one- or two-bedroom units.

Though some tenants have already committed, others are still in the process of conversations and negotiations, said Ari Pollack, legal counsel for developer Pillsbury Realty Development LLC. Space will be leased rather than sold.

The plans also feature bike lanes and gathering areas for the community — including the potential for large outdoor events.

Along some of the central roads in Woodmont, buildings ranging from one to four stories would overlook sidewalks, fairly wide streets and parking spaces surrounding large grassy areas.

The road currently leading to the Market Basket plaza would be named Michels Way, reconfigured into a boulevard with tree-studded medians and two roundabouts, and extended all the way to Pillsbury Road.

Pollack said he thinks the residential offerings will provide much-needed places for young adults to live at reasonable prices.

“One of the unique parts of the project is diversity of housing type,” he said. In Londonderry’s current market, “you either can afford it or you frankly need to live someplace else.”

Many of the apartments would be located directly above retail space, with parking lots nearby.

Some planning board members have expressed concerns about the development’s parking, traffic and school district impacts. The project is still undergoing reviews by the town staff and state officials.

Woodmont developers will also have to obtain a conditional use permit for work near Duck Pond on the western side of Michels Way.

Full build-out for this first phase could take four to five years. Even then, it’s only one piece of a broader puzzle: In total, Woodmont encompasses more than 600 acres. Future components would create more single-family homes north of the first phase’s location, and another downtown hub east of I-93.

But that’s a generational plan, Mailloux said — taking decades to complete.

“This is the type of plan that will be coming in phases and ongoing for a very long time,” she said.

And Woodmont, which has been in the works since 2010, isn’t the only mixed-use development drawing attention in southern New Hampshire. Projects of varying scopes are also forthcoming in Salem, Windham and Bedford, which just unveiled a list of tenants this week.


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