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Auction day in Nashua: Daniel Webster campus on the block

October 22. 2017 10:35PM

When opportunity knocks, you don’t always have to answer.

Given the option to acquire a prime piece of real estate, sometimes the best thing a city government can do is...nothing.

When ITT Education Services closed Daniel Webster College in Nashua, aldermen considered spending $24 million to buy it so they could expand municipal offices on the 53-acre site.

But the board opted not to scoop up the campus, which goes up for auction today. The real estate agent representing ITT says at least a half-dozen parties submitted preliminary bids. We won’t know who bought the property, or what they plan to do with it, until the auction is complete.

Nashua could have gotten great use out of the Daniel Webster property, which includes 13 buildings, more than 280,000 square feet, and a flight center. But the greatest cost wouldn’t have been the $24 million it would spend. It would have been the opportunity cost of crowding out private development.

The property will generate more economic activity, and property tax revenue, if it is developed privately. The city should not be competing with the private sector for choice real estate.

Nashua voters should consider this principle in next month’s nonbinding referendum on whether to turn the Alec’s Shoes building on Main Street into an arts center.

Business Local and County Government Editorial Nashua

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