Apartment units open on former tannery site in Penacook

  • The new Penacook Landing apartment complex on Canal Street in downtown Penacook. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The new Penacook Landing apartment complex on Canal Street in downtown Penacook. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/27/2020 4:31:01 PM

More than three decades after it stopped being a site of a tannery, two decades after it was condemned and 14 years after the city bought the land, apartments are finally becoming available at the development known as Penacook Landing.

The first phase of development at 33 Canal Street, along the Contoocook River, has been completed and 25 one-bedroom and 9 two-bedroom apartments are for rent. Thirty-one are designed as affordable under federal guidelines.

Another 20 units are scheduled to open next year, depending upon funding, according to the city. The first phase was paid for by a combination of grants and funds from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, the Community Development Block Grant Program, and loan funds, put together by the city and The Caleb Group, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that develops affordable housing.

Also still to come is a riverfront park on 1.5 acres that the city has kept.

The property had been an industrial site since at least 1846, first as the site of warehouses for the nearby Penacook textile mill, then as the site of a tannery after New England’s textile industry moved South in the 1940s. At its peak, the Allied Leather Tannery Co. was so large that a wastewater treatment plant and coal-fired electrical generator were part of the operation on Canal and Crescent streets.

The tannery went bankrupt in 1987, and the city bought the property in 2006 after failed attempts to develop it. Cleanup was difficult; a report from the state Department of Environmental Services says that tannery buried leather scraps, contaminated with chromine, and that as the buried leather decayed “it produced methane, posing an explosion risk and potential vapor intrusion and structural problems with new construction.”

Cleanup, funded in part by a $1.8 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allowed the removal of more than 1,000 tons of leather scraps and soils and nearly 1,000 tons of soil contaminated with other toxins. Concord Hospital’s Penacook Family Practice has since been built on a portion of the parcel.

The future for the plot of land, totaling about eight acres, was debated for decades. Many in Penacook once hoped for a supermarket and other commercial development there, citing the area’s tax rate that is higher than the rest of Concord, but a variety of reasons it feel through. The apartments are in what is known as a TIF district, a financing mechanism that affects property tax revenue.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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