Plans to redevelop the former Mohawk Tannery property in Nashua as hundreds of multifamily units will take years as crews clean up the contaminated land.
The proposal calls for 546 units: 230 apartments and 316 condominiums. It was presented to the board of aldermen last Tuesday.
The Environmental Protection Agency reached a settlement agreement with Blaylock Holdings LLC to clean up the 30-acre Superfund site off of Veterans Memorial Parkway in 2020.
Tim Cummings, director of economic development, told the board of aldermen last week that talks with the developers are still in the beginning stages for possible solutions for a problem that has “plagued the community for decades.”
The inactive facility, also known as Granite State Leathers, produced tanned hides for leather between 1924 and 1984 when it was forced to close by the EPA. Past disposal practices included the direct discharge of wastewater containing such hazardous substances as chromium, zinc and phenol into the Nashua River, according to the EPA.
The hazardous materials are sited in two former lagoons (about 3 acres) and a landfill. The remediation is expected to cost between $7 million and $14 million.
A public-private partnership is needed for the cleanup and future redevelopment of the site, according to Cummings. The development plans also include the nearly 5-acre Fimbel Door parcel.
Bernard Plante of Blaylock Holdings said he teamed up with Thorndike Development in Natick, Mass., on the project.
The site has 3,800 feet of frontage along the Nashua river.
“In my opinion, the most notable aspect of this site is its location and proximity to Exit 6,” Plante said. “It is about 1,000 feet away.”
The proposed entrance is near a granite sculpture “Ancient Future” by John Weidman and installed by Nashua International Sculpture Symposium.
Blaylock Holdings would be reimbursed up to $6 million from the EPA to help pay for the cleanup project, which is expected to take 18 months between the cleanup itself and inspections. Other financial sources include a $3 million Business Finance Authority loan, $2 million city loan and $3.4 million of private funds.
About 56,000 cubic yards of hazardous tannery waste, landfill material and asbestos will be excavated and placed into a newly constructed waste containment cell with an impermeable cap and vertical barrier. The process is known as capping.
Alderman and others worried about the capping when the plan was first presented in 2018.
The capped-off land will be used as part of recreation space those living in the residences, Plante said.
Lloyd Geisinger, founder and president of Thorndike Development, said construction likely would not begin on the site until 2025.
“The clean up will result in an extraordinary opportunity,” he said.
The plans revolve around the city’s housing study, which says Nashua will likely see a population growth of 8,000 between 2018 and 2030. However, he mentioned many companies are moving toward hybrid work.
“I think you are going to see more growth,” Geisinger said.
The parcel allows for the proposed density under zoning, he said. The contamination cap will allow for recreation, which has been done across the country.
The plan calls for five condominium buildings, four apartment buildings and two clubhouses. The grounds include two outdoor pools, a playground and dog park. A boathouse will include a boat launch to the Nashua River.
A riverwalk and pedestrian bridge are being proposed to cross the Nashua River to Mine Falls Park for public use.
Geisinger said the company wants to create a well-designed new community in Nashua. The bottom level units will create a streetscape with individual entrances and parking garages.
As part of the project, 38 of the apartment units will be deemed affordable at 80% of the median income.
The city has agreed to payments of $37,500 per unit instead of having affordable condominiums for a total of $2.3 million. The payments will be made based on occupants.
The condominiums are expected to cost between the high $300,000s and low $400,000s, Geisinger said, but the market could change. He hopes the cost of construction material will dip before construction starts.
Construction isn’t expected to be complete until nearly 2030.
The plans will require aldermen to approve zoning changes to two parcels, the sale of land known as the “row parcel” and waive nearly $1 million in back taxes and interest from the previous owner, according to developers.
Next steps include community outreach and further work with the EPA.
At-Large Alderwoman Shoshanna Kelly worried about only 38 affordable units, but realizes the company is putting significant money into cleaning up the site.
Cummings said the $2.3 million will be put into the city’s Housing Trust Fund.
Alderman Richard Dowd said the clean up is long overdue and could open other development in the area.
“This has been a problem for decades,” he said during the presentation.
For more information on the EPA settlement on the property, go to epa.gov/superfund/mohawk.