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Grooming downtown: Nashua’s new upgrade

Nashua’s Board of Public Works recently heard from some downtown merchants and land owners who came to praise the city’s downtown revitalization project. Even the controversial tree removal brought some positive feedback. Why might that be?

The city did a good job of including business owners and residents in the planning process for the $2 million renovation. Not everyone was satisfied (as an alderman’s petition to save the remaining trees shows), but the process let the public help shape the project, and that is always important for such a venture.

We hear Washington politicians talk a lot these days about the need for “infrastructure investment,” by which they usually mean them directing your money to projects they choose, which often benefit their friends and donors. Those misuses of public money are harder to pull off at the local level, which is one reason why most infrastructure spending should be done there or at the state level. When taxpayers and affected parties participate directly in these projects, they tend to be better, more satisfying and less costly.

Nashua’s last downtown sidewalk upgrade ran from 1977-1984, according to the city. The multi-stage program is credited with helping bring new business investment and activity to the downtown area, which is Nashua’s primary public gathering place. Time has faded those improvements. And some of the trees planted back then have buckled sidewalks, blocked drains, entangled power lines and become general safety hazards, as pretty as they are. It was time for another revitalization, and this one seems to be going pretty well. If it has an economic impact similar to the last one, it will be money well spent.

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