Massive Mixed-Use Project Proposed At Former Concord Monitor Property

Concord Patch – Massive Mixed-Use Project Proposed At Former Concord Monitor Property

650 market rate and workforce apartments, condos, a self-storage company, and retail could be built between Sewalls Falls Road and Exit 17.

Tony Schinella, Patch Staff

Aug 11, 2022

CONCORD, NH — A New Hampshire developer met with residents of Penacook on Wednesday to discuss conceptual plans for the redevelopment of the former Concord Monitor parcel in the northern part of the city.

Kevin Lacasse of New England Family Housing and members of his development team presented two plans for the parcel — a large industrial building and a mixed-use community proposal featuring hundreds of apartments and condos, first floor retail, and a self-storage space company. He noted, after meeting with Newspapers of New England, the former owners, as well as scoping out the parcel, using it for industrial seemed like a waste.

Instead, the development team put together a new neighborhood concept, similar to a small version of the Tuscan Village development in Salem.

“We all know New Hampshire is in a housing crisis,” Lacasse said, noting Merrimack County’s vacancy rate was out of whack and well below the 5 percent standard.

Currently, one out of every 333 housing units in the area was vacant. Lacasse called the housing crisis “a state problem” trickling down to other sectors of the economy, noting there were “not enough servers … or store help … when you go out to eat, you have to wait an extra 20 minutes.” The issue was also affecting medical treatment and other business sectors, he said.

At the same time, residents, including ones in Penacook, were being driven out of homes due to increases in rents and sale prices. The problem, Lacasse said, was due to a lack of housing inventory at all levels.

Monitor Way, he said, was “in a conceptual phase, at this point” but would include about 650 housing units. The first phase would be 250 market-rate apartments along with 120,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor. “Kinda simultaneously,” Lacasse said, another 120 units of “workforce” apartments would be constructed. At the same time, another 82 townhouse condominiums, to be sold at market rate would be built, followed by the self-storage unit and another 200 market-rate units.

At this point in the process, the exact size of each housing unit was not known, although Lacasse said it would primarily be studios, one-, and two-bedrooms, and possibly, some three-bedrooms.

Price points were also not known since the project was in the development phase.

Spencer Lacasse, another employee with New England Family Housing, said later the company’s workforce housing units in Bristol were going for $1,250 for a two-bedroom unit. That price, he said, was based on the average median income of the area. The price point was designated “workforce” based on funding mechanisms that require lower prices.

Deane Navaroli of Williams & Reeves in Bedford is currently working to market all aspects of the property and said it was “the first foray” the team had made with the public about the project. He said they hoped to “set the stage” for outreach — something he called “really important.” The company has marketed projects in Bedford, Concord, Londonderry, and Portsmouth, too.

Ed Roberge, a civil and former city engineer, who now works for Stantec, said much of the concept and design was based on the new Concord Next rezoning effort — creating “a new character and vision we have for the neighborhoods of the future.” The plan develops slightly more than half of the parcel and includes open space and public access to trails and the Merrimack River. Sidewalks around the retail center will be wide. The trails were expected to be about 2.2 miles. Interior parkland will run about 4 acres, he said, with about half open to the public. Roberge said the focus was “how do we create a neighborhood that is well-balanced … (which is) the intent of the new zoning.”

The self-storage company, which will probably be used by a number of the residents of Monitor Way, is in the northern section of the parcel, closer to manufacturing businesses and the incinerator.

No plans have been developed for the former Monitor offices and printing press building.

The project, which is expected to be valued at between $150 million and $200 million, would bring in more than $2 million annually in property taxes and create more than 100 jobs, mostly in the first-floor retail but also construction jobs during the production phase. Lacasse and Navaroli said microbreweries were a targeted sector for the retail area as well as a barber shop, a bakery, or other businesses that would complement the Concord Crossing project-Market Basket project to the north.

While many of the few dozen attendees to the Penacook Village Association meeting were politicians or former politicians, residents seemed pleased with the overall concept.

One resident suggested scrapping the self-storage and building more housing. Several residents were concerned about prices, noting the difficulty of finding “affordable housing” in the village and city. Another resident raised the issue of new children in the Merrimack Valley School District system. But Fred Reagan, the operations and maintenance director for the district, who was assisting the association in hosting the meeting, said enrollments had been in a nosedive for the last decade. At the Penacook Elementary School, where the meeting was taking place, enrollments had dropped from 443 in 2012 to 315 last year.

“Is there space?,” he said. “Yes.”

Residents also raised the traffic issue since the project only had one entry and exit point. It was agreed that connecting the project to Whitney Road and Hoit Road, where a new roundabout is being built, to create a second point of entrance, would be needed. Lacasse, however, did not own the land between the lower end of Whitney Road and the former Monitor parcel. According to the city’s assessing department, Wheelabrator, Concord Regional Waste, and Jack Alosa own the three parcels between the Monitor property and Whitney Road.

Roberge said extending Whitney Road was on the city’s future road construction list.

The development team was asked whether they would be seeking to arrange a tax increment finance district for the project, and they said it could be a possibility in the future.

Lacasse noted he and his family were born and raised in New Hampshire. The company develops and manages “several hundred units” in the state and has just expanded into Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas. But, he said, they were looking to expand more into New Hampshire, too.