Senior center, housing get OK

NASHUA – It’s been a long time coming, but a plan to build a new Senior Activity Center and 43 units of housing for the elderly on Temple Street has cleared the local permitting process.

Construction on the facility is ready to begin soon.

On Thursday, the Planning Board unanimously approved the project, following presentations from project engineer Earle Blatchford and Donnalee Lozeau, director of development for Southern New Hampshire Services, which will manage the housing complex.

Both the Conservation Commission and Zoning Board of Adjustment endorsed the proposal earlier this year.

“It should be a wonderful place for everyone,’’ Planning Board Chairwoman Bette Lasky said.

According to Blatchford, plans calls for the existing senior center to be demolished and replaced with a two-story,

23,750-square-foot facility, with an attached 37,000-square-foot, four-story building that will contain 43 single-bedroom apartments. The new building will be next to the Nashua River, and a river walkway around the site is part of the plan.

Because of the site’s proximity to the river and the fact that asbestos is buried about 60 feet beneath the property, drainage issues concerned the board.

But Blatchford has designed a drainage system that officials find satisfactory, according to a report prepared by Deputy Planning Manager Mike Yeomans. Yeomans said there are two drainage lines on the site that flow into the river. Water runoff from the site will connect to these lines after being treated by sediment separators that will clean the water up before it flows into the river, he said.

The asbestos on the site came from the former Johns-Manville plant on Bridge Street, which manufactured the material. For years, it was used as fill throughout the city, and city officials have considerable experience in cleaning up sites contaminated by asbestos, which can cause lung disease when it becomes airborne.

Lozeau said her agency has built several housing developments, and “we’ve yet to have a project in Nashua where we didn’t have asbestos.’’

Lozeau said senior center officials have been trying to expand their facility since at least 1996, but have encountered funding problems that have always delayed the project. The project got the boost it needed in 2003, a city election year, when Mayor Bernie Streeter and aldermen got behind the plan and approved a $2.4 million bond for the facility. The federal government kicked in another $4 million for the project.