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Developers urged to think outside the box in Nashua

Union Leader Correspondent

June 18. 2014 9:52PM

NASHUA — With Main Street renovations ongoing, city officials this week were urged to look beyond one roadway to consider the creation of an urban downtown district.

While traditional zoning guidelines have segregated individuals and neighborhoods, there is a newer land development concept aimed at mixing residential, commercial, retail and business uses, according to Alan Manoian, an expert on the form-based codes philosophy.

Manoian, the city’s former assistant economic development director, believes Nashua could benefit greatly from the codes, which he said correct damage from poorly implemented urban renewal efforts and return to traditional New England village development.

The communities of Stratham, Dover and Milford have adopted the codes, considered alternatives to conventional zoning regulations.

Manoian believes that all of the downtown blocks behind Main Street — on both the west side and east side — could flourish using the model. It features small neighborhoods of various building heights with shops, offices and housing, with sidewalks and greenery.

These “hip new districts” are becoming increasingly popular for young professionals, Manoian told the aldermanic Planning and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday.

“It would really advance urban lifestyles in Nashua,” Manoian said.

Areas such as High Street, Walnut Street and School Street would be ideal locations, he said. Factory Street is another example where the roadway was once a hot spot for the city, but has been eviscerated by urban renewal, according to Manoian.

The Bronstein Apartments, a public housing complex downtown, is detached, isolated and segregated from the community, essentially stigmatizing the development as “the project,” Manoian said.

He said form-based codes would help integrate public housing into the community with market-rate units.

Alderman Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja, Ward 8, said a variety of different housing styles and family incomes will bring young professionals and young families together, which she said will create a better understanding among neighbors and the community.

Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy asked how the city could avoid “cheap uses” of development.

Although Main Street is high-end, the downtown blocks behind Main Street are not, Manoian said.

“Nashua isn’t there yet,” he said.

Still, Manoian believes that by encouraging high quality development, the trend will go in that direction.

If city officials decide to adopt form-based codes in Nashua, it would take about nine months to create the regulations, according to Manoian.

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