Merrimack Premium Outlets development

More than 200 new apartments are being proposed at Merrimack Park Place at the entrance to Merrimack Premium Outlets, which is in addition to 224 apartment units already approved for the 20-acre parcel.

Developers for Merrimack Park Place, the complex now under construction at the entrance to Merrimack Premium Outlets, are seeking permission to construct twice as many apartments as originally planned.

The $50 million mixed-use project approved about six years ago included 224 luxury apartments, a 110-room hotel, restaurant, office space, retail space and 1,152-space parking garage.

“Obviously things have changed substantially in terms of the market,” said attorney Thomas Leonard, who is representing Monahan Companies of Nashua.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no demand for office space, he said. And retail space is challenging because of the need to avoid competing with stores already operating at Merrimack Premium Outlets.

The new plans eliminate the parking garage, 140,000 square feet of retail space and about 160,000 square feet of office space and include an additional 208 apartments. The Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott hotel and a 250-seat restaurant will still be constructed.

“There is a very strong demand for upscale apartments,” Leonard told the zoning board last week.

“How much of a housing shortage do we really have in Merrimack that we need another set of apartments?” asked Patrick Dwyer, zoning board member.

With the change in plans, Dwyer argued that the project is no longer a mixed-use development, but rather mostly residential.

“I am having a hard time with this,” he said.

The zoning board eventually voted 4-1 to grant a new variance for the project, which would allow the second apartment building to be constructed. However, the revised project is contingent on approval from the local planning board, which has not yet reviewed the request.

“There is a need for housing and there is no reason why, in my opinion, the developer can’t build to the need — and I don’t think we should expect the developer to build where there is weak to no demand and incur huge losses,” said Ben Niles, zoning board member.

If approved, Merrimack Park Place would include two four-story apartment complexes with a total of 432 units.

The new housing, according to Leonard, will be upscale luxury apartments geared toward young professionals. Merrimack Park Place is being constructed at 10 Premium Outlets Boulevard, which is a 20-acre parcel owned by the Monahan Companies.

This region of New Hampshire needs more than 5,000 housing units, according to Leonard, who said residential vacancy rates are extremely low.