The Hippo


Jul 21, 2019








603 Brewery

Geoff Hewes, his wife Tamsin and brewer Dan Leonard started 603 Brewery in 2012 in Campton and started selling their beer in 2013. 
The three studied mechanical engineering together at UMass-Dartmouth together, where they met. The brewery began as a pet project with Leonard making homebrews. Hewes was drinking the homebrews and Tamsin comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, Hewes said.
The business started almost like a professional hobby. By September 2013, they moved to a bigger space in Londonderry, where they are now, and transitioned to work on the brewery full-time. That new space also included a front-end taproom. But now they’re feeling cramped again.
They can’t fit many more tanks in their current space and some things need to be stored off-site. At maximum production, they’re able to produce about 6,000 barrels a year, Hewes said. But if they move to the new building in Woodmont, they expect they’ll be able to someday grow production to up to 30,000 barrels. 
The other big advantage they hope to gain from the new building, which is planned to be roughly 20,000 square feet (about three times the current space), is to serve more than just samples.
The beer hall will have a full food-serving license, which is required by the state to serve pints.
“The customers are demanding more than just samples of your beer. They want a pint of beer and a burger beside it,” Hewes said.
But Hewes is careful not to use the moniker of “restaurant” to describe his future beer hall. That’s because his customers are mostly restaurants and he doesn’t want to appear like he’s competing with them. Hewes said he might even create a rotating appetizer menu that features items from some of his clients.
They are about a month away from getting the food license so they can test-drive the pints and burgers at their current location.
Ultimately, the goal is to make the Woodmont location 603 Brewery’s permanent location for the indefinite future. And Hewes hopes it will be one of the first stops for beer tourists entering the state from points south.
“We are looking to become a destination. So, if you come to New Hampshire and you love beer, we want to be at the top of your list,” Hewes said.

Ready-made Village
A look at developments offering out-of-the-box, brand new neighborhoods with that old-fashioned downtown feel

By Ryan Lessard

 If you set your GPS to 15 Pillsbury Road in Londonderry, it will likely lead you to Exit 4 on Interstate 93, to a turn at a Wendy’s off Route 102, past a strip mall anchored by a Market Basket and a HomeGoods to a 62-acre patch of dirt and grass. Scattered across the field are piles of black pipes, a trailer office, mounds of soil and backhoes.

A dirt road, visible only by the darkened tire tracks of dump trucks, cuts eastward through the center before turning north to an old barn on Pillsbury Road that’s being used as a de facto center of operations for developers who are remaking this blank canvas into a new downtown area.
In just a few years, by 2020, that dark strip of dirt will become Main Street for a project called Woodmont Commons, a development that will contain a mix of apartments, retail shops, restaurants, office space and a hotel all packed densely into a walkable neighborhood. 
As master developer Michael Kettenbach envisions it, the space will be a cool destination for shoppers and diners comingling with those who choose to live there — both young and old.
“When you look down the street, you’ll see plenty of balconies, you’ll see plenty of things that change, and you’ll see the road bend and you’ll see it bend again so that your eye focuses on different areas as you’re walking and you never get bored,” Kettenbach said.
He said the core of Woodmont, the parcel abutting the Market Basket strip mall, will have a steak house, an American sports bar, an Italian restaurant and a brewery.
“I have six restaurants ready to go tomorrow,” Kettenbach said. 
He also has a handful of retail businesses he’s in active discussion with. So far, they’ve tended to be up-market, such as jewelry stores. The only named tenant so far is 603 Brewery, which will relocate from its current Londonderry site to a much larger building in the center of this downtown. It will have a beer hall inside that will serve pints and burgers.
This represents “Phase 1” of the project, which emcompasses a total of about 620 acres of old orchard land on both sides of the highway.
Mixing it up
Woodmont Commons is not only the largest development project of its kind in the state right now; it’s also representative of a paradigm shift in urban design that has taken root in other parts of the country in the past 15 years but is just now reaching New England and the Granite State. 
For decades, the guiding paradigm has been based on keeping a town’s green beans from touching its mashed potatoes. Zoning rules were set up to establish residential areas for apartments or single-family homes, commercial areas for retail businesses, restaurants or offices and industrial areas for manufacturing. 
But there has been a growing movement to throw out the old book and create a new type of zone called “mixed-use,” which can incorporate many if not all of the uses that were previously segregated into a single development. Big box stores, multi-family dwelling units, cinemas and bars can all coexist in a densely packed area. 
“Everything within walking difference. That’s the key to good living, in my opinion,” Kettenbach said.
Residents will not only be able to walk to their office for work, they’ll also have nearby amenities like a community garden, plenty of green space and possibly a YMCA with sports fields. 
Similar projects are under construction in other parts of southern New Hampshire, such as at the old Macy’s site in Bedford and the former Rockingham Park site in Salem.
Kettenbach said mixed-use developments provide a sense of community. Some of the unique features of Woodmont will add to that, such as a village district for mail.
“So you’re forced to go to open your mailbox at the post office and you see everybody in town,” Kettenbach said. “And that adds to a sense of place.”
All mixed-use projects leave behind suburban sprawl in favor of something more tight-knit and aesthetically appealing. While different projects approach the concept of mixed-use zoning in varying ways, Woodmont is trying to recreate the town center as a destination and home. At the same time, designers are taking great pains to retain a very rural and New England feel.
“You’re designing an old-concept downtown Portsmouth, if you will, that is brand new,” said Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith. 
The concept, Smith said, is appealing to both young and old residents. Many older folks in the state are downsizing from homes to apartments, while young people are struggling to find affordable housing. The housing issue exacerbates a workforce shortage in the state, but it’s not just about affordability. Many millennials are looking for something that has the best of both the rural and urban worlds — nearby amenities with an old-town atmosphere — and Smith said mixed-use developments may be the answer to that.
“And it’s kind of like old is new again. People are looking to live close to downtowns and have amenities close by,” Smith said. “Certainly, there’s a need for something like that, especially in New England, where it’s still a relatively foreign concept.”
Smith said he’s excited about Woodmont, in part because he got to see one of the projects it’s modeled after.
“One of the things that got me excited through this whole process is the model, if you will, that they’re designing this after is a development in Huntersville, North Carolina, called Birkdale Village, which is a little outside of Charlotte,” Smith said.
Kettenbach said Woodmont is using the same designers from that project, a firm called Shook Kelley.
“That’s a great project to see because it’s mature and it’s 15 years old. And it has multi-year waiting lists, not only for apartments but for retail. So it shows you that the model works,” Kettenbach said.
Smith said Londonderry already has a “downtown” for locals, which has a Town Common, a municipal building, police station and schools. But Woodmont represents more of a “destination downtown,” for locals, out-of-town shoppers and tourists.
From bushel to bustle
Right now, crews are working to install underground utilities such as water, sewer and electricity in the Phase 1 site, literally laying the groundwork for what will be the downtown center. 
Kettenbach said the location of the site was recently pushed north by about 50 feet in order to make room for more green space between buildings and in the median that will run inside the Main Street.
In the first phase, the Londonderry Planning Board has approved 286 new dwelling units, a 135-room hotel, about 175,000 square feet of retail, about 120,000 square feet of office space, restaurant space for 568 seats, and a performance and assembly auditorium that seats 486.
From there, Kettenbach is in talks with the YMCA to provide the land for them to build a center with sports fields, and he’s talking with a life care center operator that would bring in a 55-and-older community in a building that would be close to the Y.
“That deal is ready to be signed, actually,” Kettenbach said.
There will be on-street and off-street parking and one street in the core of Woodmont will offer valet parking for visitors.
The look and feel of the place will derive from local architectural influences, from the state’s agricultural and industrial roots. He said there would be lots of stone, brick and wood features, but none of it will be uniform and cookie-cutter.
The brewery will be in a building that somewhat resembles a dairy barn with external grain silos.
“All the facades will be quasi-New Englandy,” Kettenbach said.
The Statement of Purpose in the project’s master plan describes the downtown area as a “pedestrian-friendly development that, in many respects, will emulate historic, walkable, New Hampshire and New England towns that pre-date the invention of the automobile.”
In the next five or six years, Kettenbach wants to build something of a hybrid food court area with three or four test kitchens on either side hosting chefs who, if their dishes pass muster, can earn a spot in some of the esteemed restaurants on the property. That’s something he thinks doesn’t exist anywhere else in the state.
Phase 1 is expected to cost about $80 million to build, Kettenbach said. The full buildout of the 620 acres, over the course of the next 10 to 15 years, would likely cost about $500 million. But he said the property would have a market value of about $1 billion.
As the project moves on from the first phase, there will be a lot more residential development, including single-family homes and townhouses built along the northern and western periphery of the core, downtown area.
“Eventually, I’d like to build some lofts for students and young professionals. One-bedroom and studio lofts,” Kettenbach said. “That way, we don’t price them out of the market.”
He said there’s no plan right now to include subsidized workforce housing in any part of Woodmont.
On the land on the east side of the highway that’s zoned for mixed use, Kettenbach anticipates it will be a place to incorporate some light industrial into the mix. But much of the latter-phase details are likely to shift over years of planning.
“That’s the beauty of the zoning that we have here, is we can morph and change and build as to what the demands are at any one particular time. If commercial is hot, we’re doing commercial. If retail is hot, we’re doing retail. If office buildings are hot, we’re doing office buildings. If light industrial is going, we’re doing industrial buildings,” Kettenbach said. “That way the project never has a tendency to slow down. It’s always in flux and always developing.”
In its full buildout, the town has signed off on 1,439 new residential units, 882,500 square feet of retail, 700,000 square feet of offices, 550 hotel rooms, 300 hospital beds and 250,000 square feet of extended care/assisted living space.
Smith said the deal the town made ensures Woodmont doesn’t use more of the town budget than it puts in. It’s all privately financed without any tax credits or TIF districts.
Of the land purchased by Kettenbach, about 220 acres once belonged to Woodmont Orchards, which had been the largest apple producer of five orchards in town.
It was owned by the Lievens family before they sold it to Kettenbach’s Pillsbury Realty Development around 2008 for about $7 million.
Kettenbach said he’d started planning the development of these properties years before that.
“It started about 15 years ago and we, or I, put together a number of different properties over the years, knowing that there was going to be a 4A exit,” Kettenbach said, referring to an additional planned exit off I-93 that’s part of the Department of Transportation’s highway expansion plan.
At the time, the town hadn’t even created the mixed-use zoning overlay he so heavily relies on now. That was passed in 2010.
“About halfway through, it became very apparent that this was going to be a perfect location for a mixed-use project with urbanism, single-family, everything. All types of housing ... all types of offices, all types of light industrial,” Kettenbach said.
There was a delay in the project for about a year, Smith said, right after it received approval for its master plan in 2013, because of the family feud over the Market Basket company between Arthur S. and Arthur T. Demoulas. Kettenbach is Arthur T.’s son-in-law. 
After that matter was settled, things were back on track. Kettenbach, Smith, Gov. Chris Sununu and others held a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony on June 6. 
The first buildings will be completed by next year, including the brewery.
Tuscan Village
Meanwhile, other towns in the area are working on similar mixed-use projects. One such project in Salem promises to transport visitors to northern Italy.
After repeated efforts by lawmakers to pass a casino bill enabling expanded gambling failed, Rockingham Park in Salem went up for sale and was quickly scooped up by Joe Faro, the owner and CEO of the Tuscan Brands, which includes the Tuscan Kitchen restaurant in Salem. Faro donned the hat of a developer, immediately announcing plans for a mixed-use development he called the Tuscan Village in a 50-acre parcel of land in the northern part of Rockingham. 
Soon after, in October 2016, he purchased the remaining 120 acres of the property for $40 million and changed his plans. 
The 50-acre parcel is now known as Tuscan Village North and is currently under construction as the first phase of the project. According to Salem Town Planner Ross Moldoff, Faro sold part of the land to Demoulas Super Markets for $15 million before the town approved its site plans.
Tuscan Village North will include a Market Basket, a Ford dealership, about 100 luxury townhouses and a 256-unit apartment complex. An additional 160,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and a bank was approved on Sept. 26, Moldoff said.
Moldoff said the townhouses and apartments were sold after the town approved the plans.
Construction began on the dealership this fall and the townhouses are expected to be finished between this fall and next year, depending on sales.
According to a September report, the developers expect $9.5 million in annual gross tax revenue, an increase in shoppers (an estimated 45,000 cars per Saturday) and many more residents from a total of 650 new dwelling units. Moldoff said there hasn’t been any significant opposition to the project, to date.
The second phase of the project will be in the remaining 120 acres to the south. That will include a cinema, more dining and retail, a bowling alley, a 150-room hotel and another 300 apartment units. Faro will also move an expanded Tuscan Market and Tuscan Kitchen to the site, along with a new Italian steakhouse and an Italian sports bar. But much of what’s being floated for the second phase is still in flux.
“I’d say it changes every two weeks to a month,” Moldoff said.
The project is similar to Woodmont in that it closely marries residential and retail so people can have easy access to nearby amenities, but it diverges from Woodmont in that nearly the entire area is thematically linked by Tuscan Brands, from the Italian food to the aesthetic design. Kettenbach’s plans for Woodmont are to ensure designs keep with local architectural norms, but at the same time, he wants to avoid uniformity.
Market & Main
Over in Bedford, construction began this year to create a mixed-use walkable shopping and living area known as Market and Main at 125 South River Road, where Macy’s was recently demolished.
It’s similar to Tuscan Village in that it will have a cinema inside a centerpiece building, above a restaurant and connected to a parking garage. 
“Encore has completed their site work,” said Bedford Planning Director Becky Hebert. “And they are stopping additional work on the site until the spring to avoid winter construction and they anticipate pulling building permits in the early spring.”
The plan for Phase 1 is to focus on retail buildings first and open them all at once. The second and third phases will include a hotel, offices and medical offices.
“It’s designed to be like a walkable downtown shopping district with a main street and storefronts that immediately abut the street with nice pedestrian amenities,” Hebert said.
Trader Joe’s was announced as an anchor for the development.
According to the site plan, the cinema (Encore Retail announced a deal with Regal Cinemas in August 2016) will be 55,796 square feet with 1,200 seats. There will be more than 33,000 square feet of restaurant space and 112,791 square feet of retail space. The offices, medical offices and 125-room hotel will each be around 50,000 square feet. Hebert said there will be nine buildings, all told. Hebert said the planning board didn’t hear any significant opposition to the project.
Unlike Woodmont and the Tuscan Village projects, Market and Main does not have any apartment units, and it’s a smaller parcel of land. However, it’s directly abutting another mixed-use project at the former Wayfarer Inn site, where the Whole Foods was built. And the developers are working closely to ensure the two projects merge seamlessly for pedestrians and shoppers. The Whole Foods area development is called Goffe Mill Plaza, and earlier this year developers (HIR Realty and Jiten Hotel Management) changed plans for a 150-unit apartment building to 133 units.
Still, the Market and Main commercial properties are expected to improve the town’s tax revenue, but not right away. The project is located in the South River Road TIF District, according to Hebert. So, for the first several years, the revenues will be used to pay off the bond for road infrastructure improvements.
Similar to Londonderry, these mixed-use projects in Bedford are located off an existing commercial strip not far from a major highway and separate from its quiet bedroom community, which is markedly more rural.
A development project in Hooksett called “Merrimount” has been in the works since it was originally proposed in 2008. After the Great Recession, many of those plans were put on hold, according to Alden Beauchemin, owner of Keyland Enterprises and the project’s developer. But since the economy has largely recovered, things are getting back on track.
“It’s still alive,” Beauchemin said.
Original plans included a Cabela’s outdoor sporting store, but that deal fell through.
He said it’s still largely in the conceptual stage, but he hopes to start by developing 9.5 acres off I93 Exit 11 at the corner of Hackett Hill and Route 3A, on the west side of the Merrimack River. It will include sites for three or four restaurants, a building with 90 to 100 rooms that could serve as either a hotel or an assisted living facility and a seaplane landing on the river. Beauchemin said they’ve already got state and FAA approval for the seaplane landing, which would provide a northern tourism component. 
From there, he hopes to partner with abutting landowners to build out more residential properties in an additional 30 acres. Unlike other projects like Woodmont, this is not using the mixed-use zoning overlay so far. Instead, the core 9.5 acres is zoned as commercial, which doesn’t include apartments, but does include hotels. The surrounding land is mostly residential, but Beauchemin said he’d like to see some of that converted to mixed-use.
“If you want a development to work, you have to have a residential component,” Beauchemin said.
It’s too early to say how it will affect the tax base, but he thinks any commercial component is bound to be positive for the town.
When the plan was first floated nearly 10 years ago, there were pockets of resistance among Hooksett residents, but the plan was much bigger back then and Beauchemin said they are taking things one step at a time.
The promised land
Kettenbach didn’t have any experience building downtown areas when he started the Woodmont project. He studied them and researched other projects and attended seminars by designers like Shook Kelly and Bob Gibbs of Gibbs Planning. 
An earlier design of Woodmont had the Main Street running north to south, until Kettenbach was told by Gibbs, who is doing consulting on the project, that the Main Street should run east to west. That way, Gibbs told him, both sides of the street have an equal share of sunlight throughout the day.
Some people might get disoriented by massive transformations like these happening in the blink of an eye, but Kettenbach thrives in the ever-changing landscape of this so-far imaginary world.
“I don’t have to do this. I’m 68 years old. This is a labor of love for me. I like this. This is a lot of fun,” Kettenbach said.
For a hobby, the project is hard work, and before it’s done it will far exceed its most comparable developments as the most ambitious undertaking of its kind the state is likely to see in a generation.
The hope of many is that it will become a home for both our aging population and a new influx of young professionals. 

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