The mayor said his new plan is designed to target vacant upper floors in many large downtown buildings, especially on Merrimack Street — the eastern end of downtown.
"These buildings, because of their location in the heart of downtown, adjacent to Washington Street and its numerous restaurants and next to the Merrimack River, are prime locations for market-rate housing," according to the mayor’s proposal. "The implementation of the plan will increase pedestrian activity, generate new tax revenue, decrease downtown’s vacancy rate, promote upper-story development and rehabilitate historical buildings."
Fiorentini said the city is using a $1.2 million state grant to repair and improve the Merrimack Street parking garage to support more housing. Parking is critical to the plan because tenants will need parking.
On the Washington Street end of downtown, the mayor’s proposal says there are 135 parking spaces in the new 315-space parking garage that are currently available for “new residential developments downtown to lease” for tenants. In the garage, 180 spaces are currently being leased by nearby residential developments, the plan said.
The city also has state money to improve the Merrimack Street area. It will be used to plant trees, build and rehabilitate sidewalks and install lighting and benches along the street, the river and the new rail trail recreations pathway on the Bradford side of downtown, the mayor said.