Plan seeks to vitalize East Hollis St. area

NASHUA – A bid to make a neighborhood off East Hollis Street more vibrant would open it to stores, restaurants, housing and new development.

The effort is also spurred by Harbor Homes’ interest in opening a transitional housing facility for homeless military veterans and their families on Spring Street, according to a city alderman and city administrators.

Ward 7 Alderman Lori Cardin, who is pushing legislation to rezone the area, said the time is right to encourage a variety of development in the area, just a block east of Main Street.

The change would continue to perk up the neighborhood and the ward, which has made strides with the development of the Main Street Marketplace and a livelier, revitalized Main Street, Cardin said.

The proposed zoning change would allow a broader mix of development overflowing from Main Street. Opening up neighboring streets around the city center to retail shops and other development has been a goal of city officials and the Great American Downtown organization, a downtown booster group.

The boundaries of the parcel under consideration are Spring Street to the west, Foundry Street to the north, a line 200 feet east of Mason Street, and the former railroad right-of-way to the south.

The tract of land is dominated by Nashua Foundries Inc., the only iron foundry in the state. The land is now reserved for general industrial purposes.

Community Development Director Kathy Hersh said property owners would be able to better react to market demands once the change is implemented. It follows along with a proposal outlined in the recent East Hollis Street Master Plan, which envisioned different land uses in that part of the city, Hersh said.

Harbor Homes, a community social service agency, earlier this year opened a homeless shelter on Amherst Street for honorably discharged veterans. The facility is geared to single people, and has turned away veterans with families.

Spring Street is one location being considered for a new veterans’ housing program that could accommodate families, Cardin said.

Peter Kelleher, executive director of Harbor Homes, spoke in general terms about whether his organization is interested in locating a facility on Spring Street.

“We have not made any offers,” he said. “We are out prospecting.”

The only vacancy on the street is at 46 Spring St., a boarded-up building .

Last year, the organization received a $196,000 federal grant from the Veterans Affairs Department to provide housing for some of the estimated 40 homeless veterans in the state. The goal is to open 20 apartments for veterans and their families, Kelleher said.

Aldermen will review the rezoning legislation and hold a public hearing Nov. 16. City leaders will need to approve the change before it can go into effect.

The legislation would change the zoning map designating the tract from a part of the general industrial district to general industrial/mixed use overlay district.

The city’s draft zoning codebook describes the mixed use district as a tool to encourage fill-in development, direct a transition from one land use to another in areas of building obsolescence, and eliminate blight, among other objectives.

The mixed use provision allows various housing options, including multifamily dwellings; community facilities; and retail, service, and commercial development, such as restaurants, stores, professional offices, and day care centers.

The Community Development Division is reluctant to lose industrial land in the city. However, Hersh said the new designation would continue to keep it as an industrial site, but with a greater level of flexibility for other uses.

Next week, consultants working on the city’s economic strategic plan will talk with aldermen about what land to keep reserved for industry, Hersh said.