'A grand slam home run for Rochester'

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City leaders, including City Manager, Dan Fitzpatrick, left, Economic Development Director Karen Pollard, second from left, and Mayor T.J. Jean, fifth from left, let fly from their shovels to mark the ceremonial groundbreaking for The Ridge on Thursday.

ROCHESTER - Amid the steady buzz of backhoes, excavators and dump trucks in the background, developers and city officials marked the official groundbreaking of the Ridge Marketplace on Thursday.

Saying The Ridge will "enhance our community," Rochester Mayor T.J. Jean heralded next April's grand opening as being a game-changer for the city.

"It's all about the amenities," Jean told The Lebanon Voice after the groundbreaking. "You'll have premier retail, which we're currently lacking, We'll have dining options from chain restaurants which we are lacking and entertainment which the entire Seacoast is lacking. And we'll have a movie cinema and some open space, too, that's going to allow the community to really come out and enjoy a variety of options."

The numbers are staggering: 300,000 square feet of retail space, 2 million square feet overall, including restaurants, an outside entertainment area and other green space; more than 600 jobs; and more than a half-million dollars in annual tax revenue for the city.

Dump trucks and earth movers ply The Ridge preparing the way for the shopping complex's construction, a fitting backdrop to Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony. (The Lebanon Voice/Harrison Thorp photos)

Rochester Economic Development Director Karen Pollard, who was praised by Waterstone Retail, the project developer, and Jean, called The Ridge Marketplace (surely to end up simply called The Ridge by locals), "a grand slam home run for Rochester."

Josh Levy, Waterstone's founding principal, said with national chains already committed like Marshall's, Petco, an unnamed arts and crafts superstore and a thriving Walmart a stone's throw away, The Ridge is set up to be a mammoth success.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote a letter for the groundbreaking, stating she was excited for Rochester's new shopping and entertainment complex and particularly happy with its planned outdoor entertainment area, where children's shows, farmers' markets and other town-themed events could be staged.

Levy said the open green spaces will also be a wonderful place to enjoy outside dining.

Jean said the 12-screen cinema, national franchise retail outlets and national restaurants will draw shoppers to Rochester from all over the region.

Rochester Economic Development Director Karen Pollard called The Ridge "a grand slam home run" for the city.

"We'll get a lot of people from Carroll County who now go right by Rochester to Dover or Newington. Now they'll stop here," he said.

Levy predicted The Ridge will draw heavily from Mainers who want to take advantage of New Hampshire's no sales tax policy, as well as vacationers headed to the Lakes Region who need to shop on the way.

"This is truly the gateway to the Lakes Region," Levy said.

Jean, in his remarks during a brief ceremony prior to the official groundbreaking, also made special mention of the foresight of City Councilors who voted to allow some $5 million in TIF-funded road and infrastructure improvements by the city that allowed the project to move forward.

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