What Effect will 81 Units Have? New Lowell Road Apartments

May 3, 2019


by Len Lathrop

Looking into the future, Hudson will have 81 new families renting apartments at 161 Lowell Road, the location known as the Friary property.  Wednesday night the Hudson Planning Board saw a conceptual plan presentation by Nashua Attorney Thomas J. Leonard who represents Dakota Partners, the property developers that will own and operate the apartments.

The conceptual plans designed by Dubay Group of Windham showed two buildings.  Attorney Leonard reported that the first to be built will consist of 47 units, with some percentage of these qualifying as workforce housing with Dakota Partners seeking financing from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.  Phase two will consist of 34 units and a clubhouse structure.

Access to the apartments would be from Lowell Road and from Friary Drive, which Dakota has committed to build and maintain to all Hudson road specifications.  The conceptual plans noted that the curb cut to Lowell Road would be right turn only into the complex; when leaving, only a right onto Lowell Road would be allowed.  Residents returning heading north on Lowell will have use one of the roads into the Sagamore Industrial Park (Flagstone, Hampshire or Executive) then turn left onto Friary Drive to the development.

The property spans 88.9 acres with the Dakota partners purchasing 9.7 of those acres for this project, leaving the balance of the land with the current property owner. The new lot is currently zoned as “business,” which allows for this type of development while the larger original lot is zoned as “general” and “industrial.” The “general” and “industrial” sections will support commercial and business development in the future, and the newly developed Friary Drive will supply the required road frontage in the other developments.

The developer representative mentioned that they will be asking for four planning considerations as they move forward to the formal planning review after a public site walk on May 8 at 5 p.m.  While two of the requests focus around doing a fiscal impact study and a density study, the other two requests for a reduction in the town code for the size of the parking spaces from 10 feet by 20 feet to 9 feet by 18 feet and to reduce the number of required spaces from two per unit to 1.5 per unit.  It is estimated that the impact fee that will be paid by Dakota Partners.

Now a little history on the Friary property.  On a beautiful fall day in October 1956, the Saint Anthony Friary on Lowell Road was dedicated. As of that time, the building had been completed, landscaped, and the access road from Lowell Road paved. Bishop Brady of Manchester was the celebrant.  Of the many sites considered in 1954, this 148-acre property with 2,700 feet on the banks of the Merrimack River far exceeded others.  It was three miles from the Nashua train station with 10 trains to and from Boston on week days, six on Sundays.  The property was purchased from Laurette Jacques.  The site was blessed, and groundbreaking began March 26, 1954. Careful and professional design resulted in a three-story quadrangular building with 115 private rooms plus rooms for visitors, suites for staff, an infirmary, a two-story choir, and a library on the third floor.  The Province received much professional help for which they were grateful.

For nearly 25 years, the friary served to educate young men for the priesthood.  By 1979, the friary building and then 172 acres was put on the market and the Town of Hudson was offered first refusal.  After 25 years of landscaping by the Capuchin monks, the property had pine and fir forests, red and white oaks, maple, birch, ash, hickory, and other trees.  There were also handball courts, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and self-contained water and septic systems.  The three-story building was served by four stairways and an elevator.

The town received permission for a special town meeting on Oct. 19, 1979, in order to decide on the acquisition of the Friary at a cost of $2.8 million.  Many were in favor and many were opposed.  A majority of voters favored the purchase, but a two-thirds vote was needed.  The purchase was defeated by 22 votes.

Moving forward to present day, a part of the site has been commercially developed by extending Executive Drive.  The Lowell Road frontage at 161 Lowell Rd. has not been developed.  Information and photo courtesy of Brother Roger and now a part of the Hudson Historical Society collection.  (Published HLN June 19, 2015).

Following the purchase defeat by the voters, the property was purchased by the Digital Equipment Corporation in 1996 as a recreation and retreat facility for their employees, which never was developed; following a tax dispute with the town, the building was razed.

As the new purpose for the 161 Lowell Road property enters the official planning review, there are several notes of interest.  First, a landowner has a right to develop property that they own as long as they meet the planning and zoning requirements of the town.  As the conceptual plans stand, the building will be paying about $400,000 in impact fees to Hudson.  Atty. Leonard was asked by the HLN what amount of capital Dakota Partners would be investing in Hudson for this project, but e-mails were not responded to.