SALEM, N.H. — Dozens of development professionals and local officials gathered in a tent near mounds of dirt on the “blank canvas” of Salem to listen to restaurateur turned real estate developer Joe Faro speak about the project that is set to officially break ground and put steel in the ground in a few weeks.

With a smile Faro thanked people for the round of applause welcoming him to speak, but he acknowledged there’s a way to go with the project even though a majority of the permitting — 45 planning board meetings worth of permits and presentations — was complete.

“The word wasn’t critique as much as it was collaborative with the planning board,” said Faro with a smile explaining the back-and-forth with board members about what the site would become. The estimated billion dollar project couldn’t have happened without collaboration from the town and state, Faro said.

“Give us your vision for the gateway of New Hampshire,” Faro recalled telling both local and state officials when the project started, he told the crowd. He explained the project could not have succeeded with traditional planning and zoning requirements, nodding to the 2009 Large Scale Redevelopment Ordinance passed by the town. He added that the state also played a large role in helping with access to the site.

State Rep. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, thanked the state for the work put into the Interstate 93 corridor that is improving traffic and bringing water to the area. Morse added that state business tax reforms will help the project create the work, stay play environment that people, especially millennials want in order to move to the state.

“Build it and they will come,” Morse said.

Faro is interested in doing just that — building a place for young professionals to stay, work, play, just like the state’s initiative.

“We designed the development with community growth in mind,” Faro said. “And we needed to build a place where they (young professionals) see opportunity for a higher standard of living.”

Faro gave an overview of what is to be expected — 900 residential units, one million square feet of office space with top companies, two medical facilities, 80,000 square feet of retail, over 15 restaurants and a 100,000 square-foot entertainment district.

He emphasized that the location with access to the highway partnered with the large “blank canvas” of land located directly in the middle of two state capitals made the project even stronger.

“And we are 30 seconds over the border from one of the highest tax states in one of the lowest tax states,” Faro said.

He want the experiences of the village to attract people from miles around, he said describing experiential retail. He gave the example of how his own food market planned for the development will partner with a store that sells culinary equipment for cooking classes. He also talked about how an unnamed outdoor retailer will have a waterfront store that can access the water to demonstrate equipment like kayaks and paddle boards — a first for the retailer with the large boot in front.

Multiple people at the gathering were in awe of the potential of the project, citing how it would impact southern New Hampshire’s economy and population.

“It takes a visionary team to pull it off,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said through a letter read by a representative from her district office, offering her thanks to Faro for the project that is “shaping a venture that will shape the region for years.”

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