Neighbors gather to hear construction update and plans
Note: This is one of two articles I wrote for a News Writing class taught by Meg Heckman at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. It was a great class, as Meg shared her tested experience as a reporter, conveyed with an enthusiasm for journalism. The Loeb school makes such learning very accessible to the community, offering a range of classes on journalism and social media, most free.
January 26, 2013 -- Approximately fifteen people from the Lancashire Heights neighborhood in south Nashua turned out Saturday afternoon to hear the progress and plans for the development of the Nashua Technology Park, now renamed Gateway Hills. Dick Cane, Director of Planning and Development for the John J. Flatley company, briefed the group on the development project, which is adding apartments and a strip shopping center to the current office park.
“No one knows we’re here,” said Cane, stating that the office buildings are largely hidden from drivers on the highway and Spit Brook Road. That made it challenging to lease the three buildings Flatley purchased from HP in 2007. Despite the soft economy and the lack of visibility, the company has leased over 500,000 square feet, and the buildings are now over 90% occupied. Flatley is planning construction of another 240,000 square foot R&D building, perhaps as early as this year. The companies in the existing buildings are well-known technology firms: Amphenol, Aspentech, Benchmark Electronics, Dell, and Skillsoft.
Apartment constructionWhat largely drew the neighbors to the meeting are the new apartments being constructed parallel to the homes on Chaucer Road in Lancashire Heights. Called Tara Heights, the first phase consists of five buildings that will house 180 one- and two-bedroom apartments and a clubhouse. Rents will range from $1,150 per month for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,600 for a two-bedroom corner unit. Cane said tenants will begin moving in during May, with the last building occupied in September.
The second phase of apartment construction will add 140 units and extend the complex eastward towards the Everett Turnpike.
The apartments are separated from the neighborhood by a 300 foot buffer, and no streets connect the site and the neighborhood. A gravel emergency road, required by the Nashua Fire Department, will provide emergency access to the complex from Shakespeare Road in the neighborhood. However, the emergency road will be blocked by a chain to prevent traffic.
Cain said that construction required “a lot more blasting for utilities than we assumed” due to the amount of granite in the area. John Cepaitis, who lives north of the apartments, at 16 Shakespeare Road, told Cane that he and his wife have found cracks in their foundation and inside along the fireplace. Although the blasting firm took photographs of the homes adjacent to the apartment site, to be able to determine whether the blasting caused damage, Cepaitis’ home was not included in the survey, since it does not face the apartments. According to Cepaitis, although farther away, his house sits on a granite ledge, possibly making it susceptible to damage from the blasting.
Strip retailIn addition to the apartments, construction of a strip retail center along Spit Brook road is well underway, following clearing of trees and leveling of the land last summer. The five-building site will include medical and dental offices, a coffee shop with drive-through, dry cleaner, hairdresser, what Cane called a “small dining” establishment, and possibly a bank or other financial institution. Only the medical and dental offices have been leased, according to Cane, and the coffee shop has provided a letter of intent.
Cane said the design of the retail center is upscale, with clock-tower architecture and the use of earth tones. He said the Flatley Company wants to create a good first impression of the Gateway Hills development, and the retail site is the most visible.
The company’s vision is that the medical offices and retail businesses will serve the people living in the apartments, many of them working for the companies in the technology park.
OutlookSeveral proposed road extensions within the development need to be approved by the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Adjustment. According to Cane, these will be presented during the February and March board meetings.
Looking longer term, Cane believes only the southern 260 of the 400 acres owned by Flatley will be developed over the next three to five years. He doesn’t see the northern section being developed sooner unless a company needs space that can’t be accommodated by the existing site.
Within the 260 acres, he said that Flatley may construct a hotel to serve the companies in the area and provide an alternative to the existing, castle-looking Radisson, which Flatley doesn’t own.