Not all of the development around our downtown is aimed at luxury housing.
Back in the sixties and seventies, apartments for subsidized renters were erected along the river and a steep slope on Central Avenue. A few years ago, the Woodbury Mills transformed a boarded-up warehouse into a lovely affordable housing apartment a few blocks from where I live, and a mill along the Bellamy River also underwent similar rebirth.
More recently, the three Roman Catholic churches in town were merged into one parish headed by a single priest, and one of the houses of worship, St. Charles, was facing serious structural water damage. It was sold and demolished, making room for the newest entry, Bradley Commons, about six blocks from the waterfalls downtown.
The Seacoast region of New Hampshire is dominated by a large estuary, collectively referred to as Great Bay. The waters include Little Bay and eight municipalities all pouring into the Piscataqua River with a continual strong tidal current. If you could harness that energy, you’d be a billionaire.
The bay essentially creates a peninsula with Portsmouth on the ocean side and Dover closer to the mainland. Population growth and the thriving Pease Industrial Tradeport have made the bridge linking the two sides quite congested at peak hours, especially when ski traffic or vacationers are added. One Friday afternoon in February, we got stuck in what’s too often normal these days. It took us an hour to go five miles. Look, we’re not big city. That chokes real life.
The bridge, which carries the Spaulding Turnpike and U.S. 4 before they split just beyond the northern end, is being doubled from four lanes to eight. The approaches are also being raised up to six feet as a precaution against climatic instability. Yes, storms are getting more turbulent, no matter the naysayers occupying the White House.
The bridge will make Dover more accessible to Interstate 95 in peak hours, and thus more attractive to people who hold jobs at Pease or in Portsmouth or in Massachusetts just to our south. In other words, it’s a factor in the city’s booming downtown construction to address a pressing housing demand.
Transportation, after all, is a major element in community existence.
After leaving the waterfall, the Cocheco River makes a sharp loop around the Washington Mill. Henry Law Park borders part of that sweep, but its public frontage is about to become three times longer.
Environmental cleanup of the river itself gave the city one more reason to move the public works department’s yard, which was around the bend, to another site, opening a choice piece of real estate at the Knuckle, where the river turns again. A marina sits on the opposite bank. Get the idea? You can sail to the ocean from here.
However, until the Tommy Makem traffic bridge was built a few years ago (any Irish music fans reading this?), the site was pretty isolated, connected by a narrow lane at the foot of a wooded bluff. The new bridge has allowed a bypass around a stretch of busy Central Avenue, but the sidewalk along the river feels pinched. That’s about to change.
The bluff has been removed. Yup. It’s been carved away to allow the street to be moved back away from the river to make room for a more pedestrian-friendly Waterfront Park at Dover Landing. Think of casually strolling or walking your dog or taking a stroller and a toddler for a walk. Maybe even just going out to sit with a book or catch a few rays on a blanket.
At the far end, down by the Knuckle, a mostly residential development will go in – behind the end of the new riverfront park. Say hi to your neighbors, that kind of thing.
The project has an additional touch. Our 29-acre Maglaras Park sits atop the slope, but getting there has required a circuitous route. That will change with the extension of Washington Street, directly linking that park to the waterfront and downtown across the river.
It will all redefine the city. Think what Central Park is for Manhattan or, closer to us, Piscataqua Park is for Portsmouth.
I’m impressed. What does your location have to offer?
Two blocks east of the waterfalls, more residential units are going in on a hilltop site overlooking the river, at least from the rear units. This project does fill in the skyline as seen from the river and eliminates an eyesore.
Again, the emphasis is on pedestrian-friendly and the look is traditional New England. Note the “two-over-two” windows so common in my part of the state.