Woodmont Developer Eyes Exit 4A as Project Progresses

Thanks to a mild winter, developers are maintaining an aggressive schedule for the redevelopment of the Market Basket site on Nashua Road, Attorney Ari Pollack reported to the Planning Board in an update on Woodmont Commons.

Plaza improvements are well under way and Pollack said they anticipate a May opening for many of their tenants.

The next phase of development is to include demolition of the former Market Basket building in the spring.

“Taking down the older supermarket building is really the thrust of the redevelopment and provides the conceptual layout we’re looking for to develop pad sites along the connector road and the beginnings of the downtown of what you envision for Woodmont Commons,” Pollack said.

The program includes extending the access from Garden Lane up to Pillsbury Road, with the pad sites set aside as part of the plaza redevelopment, according to Pollack.

“This provides access and activates acreage behind the plaza for what we have been calling the downtown, which will focus on retail, restaurants, banks, and entertainment venues, all being programmed into an area of street networks with open space, medians and parking,” he said. “All this requires a tremendous amount of planning, even more than I anticipated.”

The 600-plus-acre development is being completed in small phases to view different streetscapes, Pollack told the Board.

Similar to the Planned Unit Development (PUD) for Birkdale Village in North Carolina, the developers are focusing on a streetscape that has walkable sidewalk areas with open space, green medians and pocket parks that bring a conservation environment into the retail space.

 “The second big chunk of what we’re up to is what I’ll call the downtown, or Main Street. If you’re thinking aerially, it’s the area between the duck pond and the edge of the orchards toward the interstate, north of the existing plaza and south of Pillsbury Road,” Pollack said.

The approximately 200-acre downtown area to be completed as part of Phase 1 construction is estimated to feature up to 175,000 square feet of commercial, retail and entertainment space, as well as 125 to 150 upper-story apartment units.

“People will be able to park their car and work there, eat there and entertain there,” Pollack said. “It’s a live, work, play environment.”

The numbers are not set in stone, as work is still being done to ensure expenses for the project are being budgeted with a sense of the reality of the market, according to Pollack.

“We’re getting down to the nitty gritty now and we need to make sure budgeting and performance are realistic,” Pollack said, noting market rents along the Route 102 corridor have been declining and some mixed-use projects have been approved in Merrimack and Salem that could have an impact on their projections for retail tenants.

“It’s something we need to be cognizant of to be sure our program will be sufficient for the tenants we think would come to Woodmont,” he said.

Also being considered is the timeline for construction of Exit 4A off Interstate 93.

Pollack said they are meeting regularly with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) to “zero in on a plan that will work for everyone.”

“We know it’s a big component for the east side of the development and has an impact for the whole PUD,” he said, noting they have conducted traffic modeling with and without an Exit 4A. “With Exit 4A in place, it’s much more conducive to a corporate style buildout, with large and small offices with residential mixed in.”

Pollack said they are continuing to monitor the project’s progress because it “really will drive what kind of infrastructure the area will accommodate.

“We want to read the tea leaves,” he said, noting they are encouraged by the concerted effort to put the DOT at the project’s helm. “I’ll tell you candidly, as a planning attorney, this is a unique situation where we have a developer who can focus on building up from the plaza north and doesn’t have to worry as much as others would on the immediate return on all acres of the project. That allows us to hold out in hopes Exit 4A will bring that configuration forward. It’s a better project with it and I think that’s why (Town Manager Kevin Smith) and others have done such a great job helping us advocate for it.”

Moving forward, Pollack told the Board, pending upcoming meetings with DOT and progress as expected, the developer hopes to submit site plan submissions in the next two months.

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