Only Woodmont Knows Where It’s At

They have evidently decided to regroup and try a piecemeal approach to the Planning Board and the public for the first few months of 2013. We know less now than we knew before all of the non public meetings of the last few months have transpired. No information has been made public on the content or results of those meetings.

Woodmont Commons Design Firm reviewing the first design plans

Andres Duany presents at Thursday Pin up Session.

Many years ago I stood next to Woodmont’s owner developer as he spoke to Ch 9. Andres Duany, his New Urbanism planner was just finishing up his public presentation at his design workshop in the apple packing building on Pillsbury Road, which was all shined up for the occasion. It was a big night.

The TV report was the only positive reaction in evidence. Mister Duany informed us one and all that we were guilty of sprawl and he was here to fix it and tell us how to mend our ways.

So far that public relations launch has been the high point of Woodmont’s efforts to convince 20,000 people who have invested and live on one acre lots, that they made a big mistake. Although he has not said where he will be living, Woodmonts owner proposes that six dwellings per acre will be the norm on his property and there will be 1450 dwellings along with anything else he sees fit to build. (Subject to the approval of the Planning Board under our Planned Unit Development ordnance.)

So as of January we will be given a presentation on “Land use.” What will be involved in that Planning Board meeting will be made public several days in advance. The exact dates will be posted on the Planning Board’s web page.

I would love to see Woodmont developed, not only for the benefit of its owner, but for the benefit of Londonderry.

I hope we will all be able to begin to work together on that objective in January.

Andres Duany presenting Woodmont Commons

Andres Duany presenting Woodmont Commons

“Jack Falvey Et al:” provides a hometown analysis of Woodmont Commons. Since attending the design charrette offered by the developers of the project Jack has been asking questions, you too have been asking questions, many to Jack himself. He has provided thoughtful analysis from his point of view and shared it back to the questioner and a growing list of Londonderry residents wanting of more information.

As they become available we will provide these questions to our readers and the search engines. We hope to provide a broader view of the project through the eyes of someone that came to town in the 1960′s. Jack raised a family here, volunteered in local government and founded his company “Making the Numbers” after a career at Gillette. As a motivational speaker and a prolific writer with major media outlets his views on the project may take you by surprise!

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Woodmont to be Discussed Tonight at Town Council

Tonight at 7:00 pm November 6th 2012 in the Moose Hill Conference room at Town Hall, the Londonderry Town Council will take public input on infrastructure needs associated with the proposed Woodmont Commons project.

TND1 Woodmont Commons Land Plan Overall Concept

Overall Concept Plan Oct 3, 2012 - Click for a larger image

On October 10th The Planning Board accepted Pillsbury Realty’s plan as complete starting the 65 day clock.  Pillsbury Realty is scheduled to present again on November 14th in front of the Planning Board. Woodmont Common will be the first Planned Unit Development (PUD), in Londonderry.  The project is located on approximately 625 acres of land near Rt. 102 and Interstate 93 at Exit 4. The development also includes land on the easterly side of the highway where the proposed new Exit 4A from I-93 is located.  The $1 billion development to be completed over the course of several phases will turn acres of former orchard land into a village of 1,300 new homes as well as offices, hotels, retail and agricultural areas.

At the Council’s October 15th meeting Town Council, Chairman John Farrell said he spoke with town attorney, Mike Ramsdell seeing that the plan had been accepted by the Planning Board as complete would it be proper for the Town Council to have a discussion about what infrastructure the Council would like to see as they go forward and maybe some suggestions from the public. Ramsdell advised Farrell that a session could be held regarding this issue.

TND8 Areas of Off-Site Transportation Considerations

Off-Site Transportation Considerations - Click for a larger image

Many residents have expressed concern over unanswered questions in the plans, and the scope of the project to both the Planning Board and Town Council.  Anne Chiampa reminded the council that stated in their goals and objectives for this year “that the Council will include the public in the Woodmont discussions.”

The goal of the session is to try to determine the infrastructure needs that could arise from the project.  Farrell stated, “this is just to have an advisory meeting to find out if we need to buy more fire trucks, hire more police, etc.  He continued, the Town Attorney and the Chair of the Planning Board are in agreement with this.”

The understanding will be that the Town Council has no authority and no jurisdiction over the Planning Board. After the meeting the Council can send a memo to the Planning Board about the items that were brought up at meeting, as an advisory document.

The development is made possible after Planned Unit Development regulations were passed in Londonderry, New Hampshire in 2010.

Read Gateway Business District and Planned Unit Development for Londonderry for the first presentation to the Town Council in December of 2009.

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New Urbanism in an old Farm Town

I did spent an hour an a half on the phone with the Town of Londonderry contract New Urbanism consultant from Franklin Tennessee doing much the same for him on the master plan project for the town, (He was too busy to meet in person during his visits to Londonderry.) so I thought a quick summary might be good for all concerned on both projects. New Urbanism is now the new normal in Londonderry these days.

Photo of Londonderry near Exit 4 in about 1900 looking to Derry Depot

Looking in the direction of Derry Depot from a location north of where Exit 4 now is in Londonderry, New Hampshire. On the far left at the horizon is the East Derry Meeting House.

From 1719 till about 1960 Londonderry was Londonderry.

Then three things happened:

Alan Shepard and wife under a truck ready to blast ledge on the I93 project

In 1963 I93 ended at the Massachusetts border. Alan Shepard with his wife in this photo blasting ledge near what today is Exit 4

I-93 came through town dropping off two exits.
The Air Force and Air National Guard decided to pull out of Grenier Field
The town planned a response to the first two events.

The town decided that because it had developed on old farm roads, without sewers and a municipal water system, plus town-wide ledge and wetlands, high density development was impractical.

The 2500 members of the town voted in one acre zoning, and industrial development commitment at the airport and a new school system. (Over a period of years, but all by plan.)

The result was that Londonderry transitioned from an agricultural base to a residential town, centered on education. Our largest taxpayers went from being orchards, to a power plant and industrial and commercial businesses. (The one at the airport, the others on the interstate exits.)

The schools became Londonderry’s new business, and its largest employer.

Attracted by this “masterful” master plan, 25,000 residents came and invested their savings, lives, and families in the fifty year build out of this concept.

The town center was not a green, although we have one, but rather the schools and the athletic fields that we built for our children.

Everyone accepted the fact that if you were going to purchase a one acre lot you were going to have to own an automobile. (Banks and gas stations were early builders to support these two elements.)

Those moving to Londonderry accepted the fact that in order to support this life style, commuting to work would be required. Bedroom communities are not bad planning nor a bad lifestyle. Automobiles are not evil. Station wagons, and now SUVs are good.
Doctors offices, grocery stores, the post office and everything else in our region of the country was built on this semi rural, school centered bedroom community model. It has served us well. Our orchardists did a masterful job of selling off small portions of their farms which became residential subdivisions and shopping centers.

Anderson Farm in 1965, today a 50 Acre Retail Center on 102 in Londonderry. Click on the image for the full story with before and after photos.

One large farm did transition into a self contained residential village (Century Village) but it did so without connecting to, or putting pressure on surrounding residences or on town roads or services. Although by town standards it was high density, it was made to work. It never did turn out to be the walking community as advertised even though support commercial development was within walking range of parts of the development. Social engineering is an inexact science.

Mixed residential/commercial is still far better suited to urban development than to bedroom/child centered communities. Young singles, like the cities, young families like Londonderry.

And so we are.

The profitability of high density for developers is without dispute. Smaller lots, driveway instead of roads, commercial mixed in, all make for compact living almost like a city, but with very low land costs. And thus New Urbanism! The profitability of high density without urban development land acquisition costs.

 

 

Image from the Woodmont Commons Master Plan PUD.

Not a bad idea or a bad concept, but one that must be made to fit the environment.

Woodmont Commons East side, showing Urban Center just off Exit 4A I93

Designs from last day of Woodmont design charrette. Entrance to East side from I93 Exit 4a. Roadway through planned urban center to Derry.

Open, easy to build on land, no neighbors except for surrounding fields, an adjacent interstate to bring all those committed to walking, (A bit of a contradiction, but everything can be made into a compelling story.)

A return to the glories of yesteryear. Your front porch is three feet from the sidewalk with a hitching post, (Decorative) and neighbors walking by all dressed up and tipping their hats to you as they do.

This can be a new (And profitable to develop and market) lifestyle.

Making it fit in the northeast as it has in the south and southwest is a bit of a challenge. Proposing a twenty year build-out requires a futurist on staff, both theirs and ours! Living as a neighbor to a twenty year construction project that is not encapsulated will drastically depress real estate values and investments.

For a town to absorb several thousand new residents and to develop the infrastructure they will require is not inexpensive. Either the developer has to come up with a substantial financial package or the current residents have to. None of this is free.
Many are comfortable driving a pick up, going to school events and work, and living in relative privacy.

They do not resent those who wish to live more contained, higher density lifestyles. They have allowed many such developments in Londonderry.

There is however great concern that scaling up these projects can not be done without great care. So far there has been little indication that great care is being exercised.

New Urban and Old Urban street scene with brick sidewalk and store fronts

Portland Maine Street on a Sunday morning

New Urbanites are a committed group.

Those of us who have committed to building Londonderry on its current model are not to be put down because of our accomplishments by a few who believe they know better.

We should be able to work together. And so that is the challenge we have been facing for the last few years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

There is more to Londonderry than just being a site for multiple high density villages.

“Jack Falvey Et al:” provides a hometown analysis of Woodmont Commons. Since attending the design charrette offered by the developers of the project Jack has been asking questions, you too have been asking questions, many to Jack himself. He has provided thoughtful analysis from his point of view and shared it back to the questioner and a growing list of Londonderry residents wanting of more information.

As they become available we will provide these questions to our readers and the search engines. We hope to provide a broader view of the project through the eyes of someone that came to town in the 1960′s. Jack raised a family here, volunteered in local government and founded his company “Making the Numbers” after a career at Gillette. As a motivational speaker and a prolific writer with major media outlets his views on the project may take you by surprise!

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McMansions or New Urbanism

Master plan is our only shot!

These two comments (sent to me) say it all. The strategy of saying as little as possible about the master plan seems to be the developers plan. We only have one shot through our Planning Board as to how our town’s laws will be changed by the Woodmont developer. Once the master plan is approved, the developer can then make things up as they go along within whatever the guidelines they get from our representatives.

That detail, plus more detail on one of Duany’s new urbanism developments makes it clear that the intent of the developer is to change Londonderry forever. Their comment about not being interested in building any McMansions now has meaning if they can sell little boxes twelve feet apart for the same money.

While looking for more information on the next Woodmont Commons Workshop at the town website one of Jack Falvey’s followers read further.

Woodmont Commons PUD Master Plan Information

What is a PUD?

  • PUD’s allow for a parcel, or group of parcels, to propose a “master plan” for development.
  • The Planning Board holds hearings on the PUD Master Plan, and if adopted, the PUD Master Plan, and not the underlying zoning, governs how the project is developed.
  • Once PUD Master Plan is adopted, all future site plans & subdivisions within the PUD will be reviewed in accordance with the PUD Master Plan.

The purpose of this Woodmont Commons PUD page is to provide a place where information and plans relative to the Woodmont project are available to the public for review and comments for the Planning Board as they continue the review of the project over the coming months.

The links to the right will lead you to information and data that has been submitted to this point on the project.  If you have any questions, please contact the Community Development Division Staff at 432.1100, ext. 134

Advise to Jack from this follower

We need to get the people of Londonderry to realize that they, instead, HAVE to be in control of this!  We must get this message out to all Londonderry residents that they can shape this development by their review of the information on this above link (Woodmont Commons PUD Master Plan Page), your email chain, their own research, and most importantly, their input to Planning Board Members and at Planning Board hearings/meetings.  Our planning board is now asking US for what we want to see this development look like/contain or don’t want it to look like/contain.  We must get more Londonderry residents to attend these meetings to speak up NOW about what they want/don’t want or be stuck forever with what the developer proposes, then builds.

His adviser then provides some details on the Kentlands

Jack, in my last email to you I listed average 2009 & 2010 real estate sales prices for the Kentlands, MD development. I provided the info to give Londonderry residents an idea of average sales prices for homes in that development…to see if, for example, a person could actually live/work in that development, as the designer of Woodmont Commons says is the basis of his live/work/walk philosophy.  Could a typical retail store worker/ teacher/ maintenance person/ Market Basket employee/ current Londonderry resident be able to afford to live in this type of planned and managed community?  Compare these prices to the average value/sales price of Londonderry residences and you’ll see a big discrepancy.  Another thing to think about.

2009 SALES
2010 SALES
Townhouses Townhouses
19 sold 25 sold
$573,952 average sold price $563,832 average sold price
65 days on the market 35 days on the market
Single Family Single Family
25 sold 28 sold
$795,116 average sold price $764,807 average sold price
82 days on the market 64 days on the market
Condominiums Condominiums
27 sold 27 sold
$344,300 average sold price $342,766 average sold price
27 days on the market 37 days on the market

I took a look at the businesses at Kentlands and was surprised to see so few retail establishments for a developments that size. But there were 39 dining establishments listed (7 Asian/Sushi) and one, Buca di Beppo I remembered going to in the Winter Park, Florida area. I clicked on the link above to get info on their Buca di Beppo. A map of the Kentlands area appeared on that site so to get a closer look I zoomed in on the Kentlands development.


View Larger Map

First thing that surprised me was the density of streets in Kentlands compared to the surrounding area. Next was that Kentlands appeared almost as an island unto itself, with routes 28, 124, and 119 on 3 sides of its perimeter. Then I saw a street (bottom left corner) was listed as Parking Lot Driveway- does that mean that people in Kentlands have a need to actually park cars in this live/work community? Oh, yes, but why do they have cars if this little bit of self-contained utopia has everything they need?

More research on Kentlands Downtown, the official site. For example, it listed only four Women’s Clothing stores: Clover, Dress Barn, Fashion Bug, and Lipstick Jungle. Clover is an upscale boutique (sells $150-$245 jeans) and Lipstick Jungle i.e. Lipstick Lounge is listed as a new and used upscale women’s boutique “where savvy girls shop “.

Many people may like these types of stores, but If I was living in the Kentlands, I definitely would want to shop other places than at Clover, Barn, Bug,and Jungle (got to go outside Kentlands for that!)…which means I’d need a car OR I could just call the town of Gaithersburg, MD rideshare program (hey, like our C.A.R.T. ride program- that program is open to all Londonderry citizens, correct?) for a cheap lift to a (not-so-nearby to walk) shopping mall. There goes the CART budget. By the way, does CART run in a snowstorm?

“Jack Falvey Et al:” provides a hometown analysis of Woodmont Commons. Since attending the design charrette offered by the developers of the project Jack has been asking questions, you too have been asking questions, many to Jack himself. He has provided thoughtful analysis from his point of view and shared it back to the questioner and a growing list of Londonderry residents wanting of more information.

As they become available we will provide these questions to our readers and the search engines. We hope to provide a broader view of the project through the eyes of someone that came to town in the 1960′s. Jack raised a family here, volunteered in local government and founded his company “Making the Numbers” after a career at Gillette.  As a motivational speaker and a prolific writer with major media outlets his views on the project may take you by surprise!

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Woodmont Commons Design Charrette Pin-Up Expert Video

Thursday September 9th the 10th design charrette for the proposed Woodmont Commons just north of Exit 4 on Route 93 in Londonderry opened with an overview of the process and presentations by experts in several disciplines.

We reported on the evening session in our story “Thursday Night Pin-Up at Woodmont” complete with images of the pin-up session.  While these videos do not have the question and answer sessions in them, you will find they are great primers on the basics of the project, and the technology of shopping developments and roadway configurations.

Mike Kettenbach introduced the event and Andres Duany of Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company, provided a brief overview of the process and a quick lesson on suburban sprawl. He provides a few advantages to the urban village as it relates to life style and the benefits it provides to the environment. Explaining that this process helps to gather information from the region and the community he indicated it would affect the designs as they continued during the sessions.

Revealing to the residents attending he announced 1,200 living units, and a very large commercial component with three hotels and a great number of shops and offices. “This brings tax positive development to the community, that is the intent. The companies are attracted by the exit and location right on Route 93, as well as the great location.”

If you network is slow, pause the video and let the buffer fill.

Bob Gibbs an expert in the field of retailing illustrates the research he did specifically for Londonderry. Working with developers to design successful urban centers and to redevelop cities and malls so that they are successful. He talks about the evolution of the shopper from the 1970′s to today. Shopping locations have changed in how they are constructed because of the changes to how shoppers buy products today.

Trade area for the proposed Woodmont Commons click for larger image

Bob Gibbs shows some images and talks about some surprising tenancies. In one of the urban centers he shows, units are available with a lake view or a city view, he told the audience buyers tend to select the street view because it is more interesting.

Easton Town Center is shown with a Hilton hotel right in the middle of the city, according to Bob, “It has a very small restaurant because the town center has 37 restaurants in it. It is well off the highway, they find that business travelers especially women will drive out of the way to stay here.” This because they enjoy walking around the city.

Home Deopt in a Urban Setting click for larger image

The video includes some maps that help to understand the trade area that shopping centers depend on to be successful. A home depot, with much more than a green roof is part of his presentation. Looking more like a high end market than a big box it is integrated into the community.

The graphics show a technique to put large box stores with small fronts on the street with the area filled in between large stores filled in with small local and national shops. The video also gives the secret to how men shop, and what they do it for. You will have to view the video to find out! The boundary of our trade area shown, with Londonderry in the center of a void in great need of retail.

Most retailers want two of the following items, 50,000 people earning &50,000 a year with 50,000 people on the roads nearby. Londonderry at the intersection of Route 102 and Route 93 has over two times those items in every category. This is shown in the demographics and site visits done by Bob Gibbs firm.

Near the end of the video Rick Chellman, TND Engineering of Portsmouth is introduced to talk over the traffic considerations taken into account when creating a project like Woodmont Commons.

Five minute walk radius is analyzed and explained on how most people will walk that amount of time as long as the walk is interesting. Londonderry we have seen quite a few wide streets, including the new Deer Crossing that is 28 feet for just a handful of homes. Rick Chellman shows a different concept of narrower streets that create calming of traffic reducing speeds and accidents.  According to Rick this creates a more walkable environment.

The presentation includes a Vehicle impact speed vs. pedestrian injury chart shown here illustrating that when hit someone walking is likely to be killed when the cars are traveling at 35mph or more.  Along with some more a fatal image of something that used to enjoy the orchard!

The remainder of the day was spent in presentations, questions, and answers from and for the 225 people that attended.

Note these videos have been submitted for presentation on CTV20 if you have access to the local cable tv system.

For other stories on Woodmont Commons read;

Note these stories include hundreds of comments from those that live in Londonderry.  We would like to thank our readers for the thoughtful contributions.

Woodmont Design Session, Let’s Build a Community!

Woodmont Development Project, Explodes from 280 to 630 acres

What is this “New Urbanism” in Londonderry

The Dawn of Design, Day 1 Woodmont Commons Londonderry

Thursday Night Pin-Up at Woodmont

Residents Discuss Future of Woodmont Orchards

The New “Urban-Center” Development at Woodmont Orchard a Op-Ed by Marilyn Hoffman

Like a sneak peek at the Final Session including the full 3 hour On-Demand Video?

Read the rest of the story.

Read More »

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Thursday Night Pin-Up at Woodmont

Following two days of design sessions, with presentations to Londonderry residents interested in what could be a 1 billion dollar project, the design firm DPZ of Miami Florida did a pin up of the new concepts they had been working on.  While some what rough in appearance they outlined some details and changes to the original concepts presented Tuesday night.

East Londonderry

The plans showed a high density urban village located on the east side of Interstate 93 in a location that many people in Londonderry think is part of Derry.   The village is centered around a square with a very tax positive commercial construction with some mixed use living space provided above the shops and stores.   The main artery on the property travels on the already approved route of the exit 4a roadway.  This roadway was originally planned to relieve the traffic at exit 4, particularly where 102 travels east into Derry.

East Londonderry Pin-Up conceptual Plans for Woodmont Commons

Some Derry residents were heard expressing concern for the fact that this roadway would now be traveling through a new city.  There preference was to be able to get home sooner rather than later.

The developer Mike Kettenbach along with DPZ principal Andres Duany made the plans for this side of the project clear, “This highly tax positive urban center would not be possible without the planned exit 4a on route 93.”  They also indicated it is in the 10 year highway plan, and development in this area could start in the next 5 to 10 years.

Looking to the North East traveling North on I93

A black and white sketch introduced the view you would see as you traveled north on route 93 gained attention of may in the audience.   One wondered out loud if this would become a shopping destination as people traveled north to the mountains of New Hampshire.  The area planned for development is just 45 miles north of Boston.

Market Basket and the Great Marsh

Changes were extensive to the area located near the existing Market Basket.  They showed a transition to a combination mixed use area with regular home lots in the center, high technology style office buildings on the highway.   The “city boulevard” was shown in two forms, one splitting with a path along the marsh, the other following only the marsh that is now hidden behind the apple trees.

Home lots similar to those on Gillcrest Road were illustrated on the west side of the property, three rows of apple trees were kept by the request of those near the development.  While good arguments were made on the issues of maintaining apple trees that are not actively farmed, it appeared that this may be one feature that may stick.

One option shows a small change to the marsh so a open water area is created around an existing land mass in the marsh.  Another concept shows the marsh being “cleaned and opened” along all but the southern edge.  Mike Speltz expressed concern about the loss of a “working wetland,” proponents argued that “people deserve consideration too.”  The design firm argued that the high density nature of the planned urban center and the walk-ability of the city was just as beneficial to the environment as a wetland would be.

Pin-Up image of Southern portion of development with open pond

The green areas located in the center of the image are illustrations of areas that could be farmed through arrangement or as community farms.  These options appear to be a environmentally friendly feature proposed by the developer in hopes of being able to use the marsh area as open water.

On these images the darker the image the more dense the development.

Civic Center or Packing House

Surprising many at the night session Thursday, except possibly those that had found the design station nearby in the Woodmont packing house was a transformation of the very building they were in.  Using the large open space that once housed and protected apples from the farm a extensive list of community focused activities were outlined.

The existing packing house include the three connected buildings in the upper right hand side of the image. Click image to view all images from the Thursday Night Pin-up session

  • Rock Climbing Wall, integral to a architectural tower
  • Black box theater
  • Skate board park
  • Interior playing fields of several types
  • Front court yard
  • concealed parking
  • nearby compatible mixed use shops and services
  • Outdoor theater connected to the building

If you have not had a chance to attend the sessions, the last one will be Monday late afternoon at 5pm, through 7pm.  You would have a chance to see the scale of the facility as it exists today.  While not large enough for a full size hockey ring, the interior space is flexible and could be configured to many activities.

As of the pin-up the designs in the center of the project had not been worked out yet.  For those located near the project questions were answered on, “what will be near me?”  The intent would be to have homes of similar type located near the homes that exist today.

For other stories on Woodmont Commons read;

Note these stories include hundreds of comments from those that live in Londonderry.  We would like to thank our readers for the thoughtful contributions.

Woodmont Design Session, Let’s Build a Community! (This story has the full schedule of meetings)

Woodmont Development Project, Explodes from 280 to 630 acres

What is this “New Urbanism” in Londonderry

The Dawn of Design, Day 1 Woodmont Commons Londonderry

This audio file is a podcast of the pin-up session Thursday night.  Play it online or download it to your MP3 Player!  It is three hours long, so plan accordingly. You can also view the first hour as a video, on CTV 20.  We will have another story that provides that on-demand.

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