NASHUA — The abandoned old Nashua District Courthouse at the Walnut Street oval could potentially see new life.
Last week, the Nashua City Planning Board approved a site plan to renovate and expand the existing property, with the possibility of Pennichuck Water Works relocating its corporate headquarters to the property.
“It is a very long and multi-stepped process to consider something like this,” Larry Goodhue, Pennichuck’s chief executive officer, said on Monday. “This is one of the steps in the process. We have not made a definitive decision yet.”
Pennichuck’s current facility at 25 Manchester St. in Merrimack has an expiration date on its lease, so the company is considering all of its options, according to Goodhue. He stressed that the possible relocation to the Walnut Street oval is still in the early stages.
“Structurally, the building is very sound. It is a nice piece of property in an ideal location in downtown Nashua,” he said.
In addition to the two-story, nearly 20,000-square-foot courthouse at 25 Walnut St. being transformed into an office facility, there could be a two-story, 14,127-square-foot building addition that gets constructed, which would include a first-floor parking garage and second-story office space, according to the plans on file at Nashua City Hall.
The addition would be constructed along Walnut Street, according to the site plan. About 17 parking spaces would be included in the lower level parking garage addition, although a total of 52 parking spaces would be on the property, the plans say.
A new sprinkler and alarm system would be installed in the building, as well as new outdoor lighting and traffic access through the existing Chestnut Street entrance, according to Linda McGhee, deputy planning manager.
“This is just a site plan approval. A few other things have to come in line still. It is close, but we are not yet there,” said Goodhue, adding negotiations are still ongoing.
The courthouse facility has been vacant since 2011 when the court operations relocated to the Hillsborough County Superior Courthouse on Spring Street.
“Since this building and site have been vacant for several years, the addition of a professional office use should be viewed as a positive impact,” states the plan’s suitability report. “As the intended tenant is Pennichuck Water Works, the project returns the water utility company back to the downtown area, and to a site that is less than a quarter of a mile away from the former site they occupied at 4 Water St.”
“Having a business as well known and important to Nashua as Pennichuck Water Works located in the heart of Nashua’s downtown also provides an economic development element, as noted in Nashua’s 2000 Master Plan,” the applicant states in the plans.
In 2015, Robert Parsons, formerly of Synergy Dining Group LLC, purchased the old Nashua District Courthouse for $720,000. Initially, Parsons discussed the possibility of converting the building into a new public health facility, as the existing Nashua health building is aging. City officials have recently explored different options.
Parsons said earlier that his first choice for the property would be to renovate the existing building, which he said is feasible and worthwhile.
“If this comes to bear, we would be a tenant initially — we would seek to be a long-term tenant,” said Goodhue.
The newly approved site plan states that an office building aligns well with the riverfront west portion of downtown, and an office building in close proximity to Main Street is a common and accepted use.
The project is intended to preserve and enhance the aesthetic, architectural and visual amenities that are unique to the property, according to the plans.