Phase 1 of Woodmont Commons Goes on to Planning Board

The Woodmont Commons project moved a step closer to reality last week, as the Londonderry Planning Board reviewed a conceptual plan for the planned development. While no decision was made, the board gave input on the plan and made suggestions.

Much of the mixed-use development is on the site of the former Woodmont Orchards.

Ari Pollack, the attorney representing Pillsbury Realty LLC, the developer, opened the presentation by introducing other members of the “standing committee,” including Jeff Kevan, an engineer with the T.F. Moran company.

Kevan said the conceptual plan is for Phase I, the sub-areas WC1 and WC2 on the Woodmont Master Plan. He said the project is also under review with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Services (DES).

Kevan reviewed the scope of the project, which includes “substantial” retail and dining space, including a local brewery and brew pub; an entertainment facility; a hotel, a senior assisted living facility; and apartment-style residences. The plan calls for both active and passive green spaces, storm water management and sidewalks, he said.

Kevan said the team plans to submit its formal application in the fall. “This is still in the conversation stage,” he said, adding, “It is subject to change.”

Kevan said the project will occupy 62 acres to the north of the Londonderry Market Basket. There will be a connector road from Garden Lane to Pillsbury Road, named after the late John Michels, a Londonderry attorney involved with the project. The road will have single lanes in each direction, a bike lane and parallel parking, he said.

“This will keep the speeding low and provide walkability,” he told the board.

There will be a 4-acre detention pond and a walking trail between the so-called Duck Swamp and the pond, with an 8/10-of-a-mile loop. The pond will provide storm water treatment as well as detention, he said.

The plan calls for 164,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, the brew pub, and the entertainment facility, Kevan said. There will also be 108,000 square feet of office space.

Current plans call for 260 private residences, including townhouses, apartments and condos, the 135-room hotel, and 250 units of senior living.

There is a small detention pond behind the proposed senior housing, which will drain toward Interstate 93, he said. This will also provide storm water treatment.

The road configurations have been reviewed by the planning staff, fire and police departments, Kevan told the board. The roads are being kept relatively narrow to keep speed down. The two-way roads in the development will be 22 feet wide as opposed to Londonderry’s usual 24 feet, and 20 feet wide on the one-way roads.

The team used the Urban Land Institute (ULI) formula for parking, noting, “We did not want to over-park. We wanted to reduce unnecessary pavement.”

The project includes two parking decks, with the top levels to be used by residents and the ground-floor levels by businesses, he said.

The ULI formula calls for 2,025 parking spaces and Woodmont will have 2,075, according to Kevan.

Kevan said the team has discussed water needs with Pennichuck Water Co., including the sizing for pipes and installation of a water tower. They have also met with Eversource, the electricity utility, he said.

The first part of the project will be adjusting the drainage and creating the detention pond, he said, after which the roadway from the Market Basket plaza will be constructed. “We hope to start that this fall or winter,” he said, along with the buildings immediately adjacent to the roadway.

After that they will move on to Main Street and the assisted living complex, he said.

Planning Board Chairman Art Rugg observed, “I hear people complaining about getting into Market Basket now. This is something we need to keep an eye on.”

Tom Goodwin, a staff member with Shook-Kelley, the architectural firm working on the project, showed a short video. “On the conceptual model, there will be more buildings in the actual Phase I,” he told the board and television audience. The parking decks and townhouses will be part of the first phase, he said.

Two phases of retail are planned, one oriented toward I-93 and the second, in the future, oriented north-south. “That could go residential or retail,” he said.

The project includes a walkable Main Street. A “kink” in the road isn’t a mistake, Goodwin said, noting, “We wanted to make the first phase seem complete.”

The performing arts center is planned to have the capacity for outdoor concerts and events. “They can close off part of the parking lot,” Goodwin said. “They can have concerts, food trucks, drive-in movies.” And the outdoor area connects to the brew pub, he added.

The buildings will be one, two, three or four stories, with architectural details such as dormers and bay windows to make them look more equal.

The Main Street area will have a “significant green space” with a common running down the center, Goodwin pointed out.

And there is also potential for some kind of civic building, he said.

The board had several questions for the Woodmont team, with member Ann Chiampa observing that the northern end of Michels Way intersects with Pillsbury Road near a driveway. “Will it be safe to go out?” she asked.

Member Rick Brideau asked about snow removal, and Kevan said in the primary portion of the development, it will be removed. There is also a 35- to 40-square-foot flat area between Michels Way and the detention pond that would work, he said.

Member Ted Combes asked why Michels Way was a one-way street and Kevan said, “The idea was to keep the speeds low.” There is still room for the parallel parking and bike lane, he said.

Brideau said he liked the concept of a parking garage but wondered why there was none for the proposed hotel, and Kevan said there was no plan for one now but it could be added.

“Once we get past Phase I, we’ll be more fluid,” Goodwin said.

But member Leitha Reilly advised, “If you put in a hotel, you should have parking near it.”

Kevan said there were 207 on-street parking spaces in the area of the hotel. But Reilly said, “You are going to see a lot of retail and a lot of residents.”

Combes also asked how many bedrooms the residential units would have, and Goodwin said it would be a mixture of three-, two- and one-bedroom units. The number of three-bedroom units is limited, mostly to corner units, he said, and most of the units will be one- or two-bedroom.

“There will be other types of housing as we get away from the Main Street area,” he added.

Combes also asked when Londonderry residents could actually shop and dine in the complex.

“The cute answer,” Pollack said, “is as soon as possible. But we’re really looking at a 4- to 5-year build-out. We need to be realistic.” Each building has to be serviced for traffic needs, utilities, etc.

“That’s when the phasing comes in,” he said.

Reilly, also a School Board member, “respectfully requested” that the developers think of the project’s impact on Londonderry schools. “With 250 units planned, I hope you will continue to talk with us,” she said.

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