Mr. Yuk Goes to Hudson

Proposed Riverplace development in Hudson, New Hampshire (courtesy W/S Development)

A marvel of the 21st century is that Labelscar has a great little tool called web analytics where I can see (amongst other things) the search terms that people use to access our site. While I generally keep my day job separate from my goings-on as a mall geek, I don’t mind mentioning that I work in the burgeoning search marketing industry, which is really just a long-winded way of saying that I find the *way* that people find us to be sort of fascinating. But beyond that, sometimes it gives me good leads on retail-related news.

It was based on such a query that caused someone to stumble upon this site–something about “new mall hudson”–that lead me to find that W/S Development, a well-known New England developer of lifestyle centers, recently introduced the proposed lifestyle center to end all others, a gigantic riverfront development to be built on the site of a current golf course in Hudson, New Hampshire.

At first glance, I can see some pluses and minuses of this project, although admittedly I haven’t seen many of the details about it. First, the good: despite that it’s a lifestyle center, it appears to replicate a genuine streetscape, with blocks and neighborhoods (including a fashion-oriented “Pavilion Buildings” neighborhood, and a more nightlife-centric “Theater District,” amongst others), a riverfront performing arts theater and resort hotel, a residential component, and a variety of other features. In essence, this is a brand new, destinational downtown for the deep suburbia of the Merrimack Valley, a place that will serve as a super-regional destination for all of the densely populated suburbs stretching north of Boston (and into New Hampshire) for 60 miles. That could be sort of neat.

Map of Daniel Webster Highway in Nashua and Hudson New Hampshire

The bad, of course, is notable. The immediate thing that jumps to mind is that the site–while currently somewhat off the way, retail-wise, is very close to the Daniel Webster Highway in Nashua, along with the Pheasant Lane Mall, which is currently one of the largest retail strips in all of New England. While I’ve learned from the guys at Freakonomics that these things tend to do better when clustered together (rather than spaced apart, as you might think), it still seems that the sheer magnitude of this project–which is being touted as the largest mall in New England, thus implying the square footage will exceed 2 million–will likely require that it steals a substantial amount of stores from the thriving Pheasant Lane Mall and its adjacent retail strip, setting the stage for another visit from Mr. Yuk. This is to say nothing of the impact to downtown Nashua and downtown Lowell, which like most older industrial cities have been staging a comeback, mainly in the form of new restaurants and entertainment.

And the other elephant in the room is the Tewksbury Mills project, whose status is unknown now that Mills is to be acquired by Simon. Will Simon want to move forward with the Tewksbury Mills project–which serves a more underutilized slice of the same portion of the metropolitan area–or will W/S Development’s much more ambitious and massive project be the ultimate retail winner, and what could it mean for the many surrounding retail developments?

10 Responses to “Mr. Yuk Goes to Hudson”

  1. Well I could tell you if the Tweksbury project is still underway it will be a more balanced competition (a tax-free old mall and a Mass tax new mall vs. a giant tax-free NH mall) having Simon flank both ends of this proposed new mall. If a new mall comes in right across the way from Pheasent Lane, which quite frankly, one of the only things going for an old 80’s mall is the tax-free perk, I don’t think it’s going to effect Pheasent Lane. If anything, maybe it will get them to renovate a bit like Buckland Hills did to compete with a modern Evergreen Walk.

    Don’t want to make it personal, but New Hampshire is one state that just sucks for malls and Pheasant Lane is just one prime example of the lacking offerings. Take the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester; basically the same set up of clustered big box outlets all around it (kind of like Buckland, ahem, I mean, Manchester, CT) It’s my theory what they don’t have in malls they certainly make up for shopping centers. Now if they could only better regulate the horrendous traffic on both South Willow (in Manchester) and Daniel Webster Highway (in Nashua) because the sluggish bumper-to-bumper is always downright absymal.

    The lame mall status of NH probably has something to do with the tax-free status. In any event, Malls are what Mass is for.

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  2. The development in Hudson is, to me, typical of New Hampshire behavior. Manchester’s South Willow Street became the location for EVERYTHING, and a quarter century later, it looks more rundown and seedier than ever. The Nashua strip is much larger; one of the worst traffic nightmares I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the worse suburban eyesores one can imagine. So intead of trying to improve either of these areas that the state has so effectively dirtied up, what do they do? Find a quiet, rural, uncluttered open space and dirty that up as well. For me, the Southern New Hampshire dream ended long, long ago. To sit in all that traffic…for what????? Manchester?? Nashua?? ..and now Hudson?? To see another small town ruined in the name of the almighty dollar is a pity, but apparently in Southern New Hampshire, the belief is the more concrete the better! But I’ll bet there are many in Hudson who fondly remember their small town of forty years ago. What will this LIFESTYLE center do to the lifestyle of those who are forced to live next to it? I hope those opposed to this center will be able to express their concerns. Whether anyone listens is another story. Remember you’re in New Hampshire.

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  3. I tend to agree with the last poster, but for a different reason. Maybe it’s because I’m not fron there, but I’d love to know what is wrong with the existing retail facilities in the Nashua area? Are they that lacking in retail that this mega-project is needed?

    And it’s a lifestyle center to boot. Gonna be great walking from store to store in a blizzard in mid-January…

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  4. I agree with you, JP. The project itself seems somewhat interesting in that it does incorporate the destinational feel of a mall and many of the mixed uses found in real lifestyle centers. My complaint with the lifestyle center format, in general, is that the vast majority of them are just strip malls or big box centers with some added ornamentation, and built as such mostly to be more appealing to local planning boards.

    However, the location for this one really stinks. It’s so close to such a large and bustling retail district already that you have to question why anyone would bother. Are there really even enough tenants to fill this and the nearby Pheasant Lane Mall (and the many strip centers surrounding it)? Why not build this in another area that’s somewhat underretailed (such as over the border in nearby Massachusetts)? I realize MA has sales tax and NH does not, but if they’re building something this destinational, no one is going to care. Plus MA doesn’t tax clothing anyway.

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  5. JP was absolutely correct about the winter weather. My mom lives near the Evergreen Walk Center in CT and it is definitely cold going from store to store. In the South, many of these centers have sprung up, but of course the weather is friendlier down there. I’m wondering if retailers already located in Pheasant Lane will consider relocating to Hudson, or will they just build an additional store? Also, I heard there are plans in the making for a smaller complex of shops (mostly high-end) in Bedford, which is not too far away. Can Southern New Hampshire support all of those stores, particularly if most of the new stores are already in Massachusetts? The Portland, Maine area also is seeing an influx of new stores as well. I’ll be interested to see what happens.

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  6. In Merrimack, New Hampshire a Div. of SIMON is building a
    factory outlet center. http://www.outletsyes.com
    I am not sure what could be happening in Bedford, NH other then
    a major new bridge being built on the border of Merrimack, NH/Bedford
    and Menchester, NH/Litchfield, NH for the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Also the Pheasant Lane Mall will be undergoing a major
    re-model(a smaller remodel was done when SIMON bought the property
    years ago that did greatly enhance the comfort in the mall)
    http://www.simon.com/about_simon/development/on_the_horizon.aspx
    Part of the lifestyle center upgrade at Pheasant Lane will happen due to
    the purchase of the empty former Macy anchor unit that was owned by Federated department stores when they moved to the Filenes on the other side of the mall and rebranded. SIMON has bought out many other similar Federated owned anchors nationwide.
    -Dana

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  7. I do have to comment on what I have read here.
    It is not only retail growth issues in this area of So. NH it is also
    residential. I grew up in the are in question and it once was a small town and had been a lot smaller when I parents moved to Hudson. I no longer live there, for me it is not the same place at all when it comes to the growth. Now it is like a city without the “city”. When a developer comes in and demands to build 500+ housing units then says if you try to take me to court I will bankrupt the municipal government in court you know something is wrong with things. But that is how it has become, a mountain that was once covered in trees and the home to nature is now spotted at night with lights, housing units of many types. Do they care if the local government can support the hit on the infrastructure? Nope..
    I think Hudson is much better off with that beautiful 36 hole golf course on the edge of the Merrimack River then some mega center.
    -Dana

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  8. Here is a great link about the canceled project in question:
    http://ci.hudson.nh.us/riverplace/index.htm
    I think the town knew it would not happen for many reasons,
    so much of it for more like a day dream someone tried to make
    happen when they awoke as not much of it made any sense from
    a business stand point or much any other point of view(other then
    the building ;-) ).

    I think the smaller project on the site of the former Grace/DOW chemical
    factory behind Burger King/Old Navy in So. Nashua, NH will make
    a lot more sense if I had to choose from one or the other. Also
    the riverside location is a major plus, as for the weather… well that is
    New England ;-).

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  9. I’m glad this monster never ate Pheasant Lane. I’d like to see an entry on that, especially the “Josh’s Toys and Games” store…

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  10. My favorite thing about going to the nashua mall is that you park in Mass but shop in NH.

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