by Robert Duval
The historic Goffe Mill site (also known as the former Wayfarer Inn site) in Bedford, N.H., is undergoing a unique and lively revitalization. The site occupies 16.2 acres across Bowman Brook between South River Road and the FE Everett Turnpike. Originally developed in 1744 by Colonel John Goffe, who obtained the property for his service in the French and Indian Wars, the Goffe family constructed two stone dams and a mill pond, where they operated a gristmill and a sawmill for over a hundred years. In 1961, the property was sold to developers of upscale hotels who opened the Sheraton Wayfarer Hotel and Conference Center in 1962, which became famous over the years for the politicians who stopped there while campaigning during New Hampshire’s presidential primaries. The property was sold in 1986 and was closed by the current owners in 2010.
On April 8 the new Goffe Mill Plaza, a mixed-use village-style development anchored by a 40,000sf Whole Foods Market, officially opened at the site. It was a widely anticipated opening with hundreds of shoppers enjoying the new site. A month prior, The Provident Bank, also part of Goffe Mill Plaza, opened for business.
TFMoran, a local full-service engineering and landscape architecture firm, was hired by the current owners to redesign the property to include a grocery store, retail space, two restaurants, a bank, and an apartment building. The historic mill building, brook, and dams were to be incorporated as a central part of the development.
“Due to its long history and unique setting, the project imposed numerous challenges for the developers,” says Jeff Kevan, project principal for TFMoran. “We had to put together a plan that, in addition to providing access and parking for each use within the complex, also addressed the environmental quality of Bowman Brook, traffic safety, preservation of the historic mill, and structural stability of the bridges and dams, and created an accessible public walking trail all around the brook and mill pond,” he explained.
The town of Bedford and the community came together in support of this project. In addition to the revitalization of this historic site, the benefits were numerous, adding new jobs, bringing more visitors to the area, encouraging even more economic development, and adding public green space.
“The community green space consists of a half-mile-long loop path designed around the historical Goffe’s Mill site which connects the future residential component of the development with the commercial, making this site a living walking community,” explains Mike Krzeminski, TFMoran’s landscape architect. “The path was designed to be ADA-accessible with small pocket patios with granite benches in locations to overlook the Goffe’s Mill dams and Bowman Brook, and historic elements with signage informing the public of its significance. Large native trees along with smaller flowering and evergreen trees were placed to frame views, provide shade, and attract wildlife to the area,” concluded Krzeminski.
As part of the project team, design-build firm PROCON of Manchester designed the buildings to reflect the needs of the user while keeping the sensitivities of the town a priority. Whole Foods incorporated reclaimed portions of the original mill and Wayfarer Inn, as a visual reminder of the history of the site. A deck for outdoor seating, connected to the back of the market, directly overlooks the restored mill, beautiful waterfall, and dam.
Robert Duval, PE, LEED AP, is chief engineer and president at TFMoran in Bedord, N.H.