Glowing trees and a sense of place: Big ideas for moving Manchester Forward

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 OPINION

For the love

Manchester Forward

In my last post, I spoke about Manchester Forward and how we want to help the city become even greater. Before going further with Manchester Forward or any specific proposals, I want to offer an overview of some of the ideas that we have.

It is our hope that these ideas start discussions that will lead to great things happening in our city. We believe that with the right partnerships, citizen involvement, and support and action from our elected officials, these ideas – and more – can become reality.

Some Ideas

To better combat crime, our ideas include dividing the city into divisions and having a police sub-station in each. These sub-stations could have personnel on-site on a full-time basis by utilizing a citizen police corps style of program. These sub-stations could also be used as meeting areas for neighborhood crime watches. Having smaller districts would also encourage community policing.

Housing: To overcome problems associated with absentee landlords as well as lack of code enforcement, our ideas are to:

  1. Do what needs to be done to allow for more inspectors to be in the field conducting inspections and responding to complaints. This may call for office restructuring, increased innovation and funding, but is something that needs to be done to ensure that Manchester has quality and safe housing stock.
  2. We need to find a system that will allow absentee landlords, (particularly those who reside out of state), to be held accountable for vacant and poorly-kept properties. Maybe require local management of properties owned by non-local landlords, (outside of a certain radius of Manchester).
  3. Create an incentive and low-interest loan program for Manchester residents who want to buy and rehab buildings for use as apartments that are located within city limits. Assist by providing grants and resources for those who own property that needs certain retrofitting to meet code requirements. Include in requirements a minimum ownership clause that states the owner must possess the property for a minimum amount of time, (e.g. five years), and that any transfer of property must be to either a local resident or one who will have a local management company oversee it.

Public Schools:

One of the issues that often plagues Manchester Public Schools is that the school board and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen do not get along nor work well together. We’re not sure what can be done to help this situation, aside from citizen involvement. We need to demand that they work together and if not, we need to take action in the voting booth!

Manchester also needs to look at alternative education options, such as online courses and degrees, as well as more charter schools.

Neighborhoods

Enhancing neighborhoods and helping cultivate community relationships and pride is an important factor in any city. Manchester needs to do everything that it can to preserve the charm and “neighborhood” feel of sub-communities by providing and maintaining needed infrastructure as well as creating a people-focused and business friendly environment. This will allow small neighborhood businesses to open and thrive, which would benefit both the neighborhood and the city.

There are 24 distinctive neighborhoods in Manchester according to the Manchester Planning & Community Development Department. While we are all Manchester and should be proud of that, our neighborhood is our little section of the city and it should be distinct and convenient, offering a little something for the locals, including shops, eateries, and events.

Rimmon Heights arches - (St. Marys Bank)


One idea to distinctly define our neighborhoods is erecting arches at the boundaries, such as the ones in Rimmon Heights on the West Side. Another idea that could be done in place of – or in conjunction with – the arches are neighborhood-specific street signs that display the street name against one color background with the neighborhood name written above against a different colored background. This could be modeled after similar street signs in Providence.

Promoting Unique Business Models

In our fast-paced world where everything, including business and how it is conducted, is evolving, Manchester needs to be at the forefront of changes and needs to be open to new and different ideas in order for the city to attract people as well as to keep them here. A current example is the situation with Uber. The city as well as the new business need to get together to make things happen. The city needs to leverage the benefits of the new business or model while at the same time making it fair for existing businesses and models. As always, the people’s health and safety need to be considered as well as other factors, (such as liability and financial implications to those involved). There must be flexibility on both sides, (city and business), and our elected officials need to take necessary action to allow new business models to come to and thrive in Manchester.

Arts and Culture

Manchester has come a long way in the area of arts and culture. The New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA) has invested in Manchester and is attracting many students to our fine city. This commitment has led to artists coming to the city and making it their home as well as opening arts-related businesses here. A vibrant arts community is important to the city’s growth. We believe that things such as arts grants and other programs to promote the arts in our city are an important step to continuing the growth of the arts community. We also believe that a strong relationship with NHIA will help keep the city moving in the right direction with the arts.

Verizon Wireless Arena - (Verizon Wireless Arena)
Verizon Wireless Arena

Music, dance, and theatre have all benefited from the addition of the Verizon as well as smaller music venues, and the commitment and productions offered by organizations such as the Palace Theatre and the Majestic Theatre. The Open Doors Manchester trolley night is a great event that we would like to see expanded into a monthly “gallery night,” similar to the one in Providence. The event should be free, along with parking, and would showcase the great galleries and theaters, as well as the local artists that we have in Manchester.

Library

While we do not currently have any specific ideas for the library, we believe that libraries are a vital asset to the community and must be preserved and funded. Manchester City Library is a great place and must have the city’s commitment and support. Even in the age of e-readers libraries will not be left behind because they offer so much to the community. We fully support the Manchester Public Library!

Professional Sports / Winter Olympics

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 3.55.33 PMHaving professional sports in Manchester has been a great thing. Both the Fisher Cats and the Monarchs offer family-friendly environments at reasonable prices and have a lot of fan support. We believe that the next step for Manchester would be to lobby for a professional soccer team, such as the New England Revolution, (who are looking for a new home), as well as a professional lacrosse team. Both sports are growing on all levels and are seen by many as the future of sports. (Traditional sports will always be popular, but the new appreciation for other sports is worth considering).

Monarchs logo stick and puck - (American Hockey League)The city should contact Bob Kraft as well as Major League Lacrosse and discuss opportunities for a franchise or development team in Manchester. There are existing venues that could house these teams, including Gill Stadium, (lacrosse), and SNHU. There are also areas of the city where a stadium would work, (remembering that soccer and lacrosse stadiums are smaller than what is needed for sports like football). Some areas that come to mind include the land where the Armory now sits, (the existing building could be incorporated in the design if feasible), or even the land where Arms Par(king) now sits. (We have proposed another use for Arms Park but would possibly support a riverside stadium that is architecturally compatible with the area). The field at West High could also be upgraded and utilized for one of these sports while still being used by the school.

I recently read a post regarding Manchester hosting the 2026 winter Olympics on LivableMHT. At first I was a little surprised and thought that the idea was reaching but then sat back and realized that it is a rockin’ idea that is totally doable! (Besides, I have some ideas that seem way out there as well, so who am I to judge?) Having the additional stadium in Manchester would certainly help us secure an Olympic bid, and if other ideas become reality, (particularly transit), the city would be a very attractive possibility. I would maybe say the 2030 games, as it would allow us more time to prepare. But hosting a Winter Olympics is a solid idea!

Gateways and Gathering

We need to create unique “entryways” to our fine city at all major borders, whether it be signage that displays pictures of Manchester points of interest or a sign with our logo, we should have something that helps people know that they are in Manchester and that we are proud of our city! Maybe plaques attached to New Hampshire-shaped granite sculptures with “Uniquely Manchester” written in colorful letters.

Some other ideas:
  1. Arms Park(ing Lot) should be redeveloped into a riverside urban park that can be used for theatrical productions, small festivals and outdoor concerts or events like ballroom dancing under the stars. Lost parking could be replaced by building an architecturally friendly garage next to one of the mills on the south end of the property. This would be a perfect welcome point to those coming to the city via the envisioned transportation hub, (where the Bedford Street lot now sits). The location also has easy access to Elm Street and could be “connected” via a specially designed walking path. I recently heard about an idea to turn the lot into an open-air retail area and believe that the two ideas would fit well together. It could be an urban park surrounded by neighborhood appropriate buildings that house eateries, cafes, and shops. The west end of the area would be open to the river. We envision a European-style plaza that architecturally pleases the surrounding area.
  2. Veterans’ Park is a great example of the city returning a piece of property to its (almost) former state. Growing up, I remember a parking lot where the restored park now sits. We believe that Veterans’ Memorial Park, (official name), should be returned to its full former state, including unearthing the artificial pond that sits beneath it. The bathroom buildings should be restored and the welcome center should be redesigned to include an expanded history room that showcases some of downtown’s greatest treasures, including historical photos of the park as well as Stanton Park, which sits in front of the Radisson on Elm Street, (across from Veterans’). The welcome center could also be connected via a decorative archway, (that could bear the name of the park or the word “Amoskeag” on it), to another building on the opposite side of the park entrance. This could be a focal point for that area of downtown. Or an archway could be built at the main entrance to the park without connecting it to the welcome center.
  3. Manchester Square would be a new designation and redevelopment of the area within the following boundaries: Elm Street at West Merrimack Street west to Canal Street; north to Stark Street; east to Elm Street; and south back to the starting intersection of West Merrimack. The Carpenter building and City Hall Plaza are both within this area. We would like to see the Middle Street parking lot as well as the parking lot next to it removed with lost parking replaced – and parking added – by constructing an architecturally friendly garage that would abut City Hall Plaza Tower. The surrounding streets would be redesigned to match the architecture of the area. The area would remain mixed-use. The areas where the existing surface lots now sit would be made into a city square that hosts outdoor gatherings and could also act as a venue for theatrical productions, small concerts, and events like outdoor ballroom dancing.
  4. Granite Square was at one time a vibrant area that fell into neglect and was torn down to make way for the current version. Our vision is to totally raze the existing plaza and replace it with mixed-use buildings constructed close to the street with wide sidewalks that would allow space for outdoor dining and shopping. Parking would be situated in the rear of the buildings. The intersection of Granite and Main Streets would be upgraded to allow for greater pedestrian and bicycle access as well as new entrances to the plaza. The current police sub-station would be replaced with a permanent location within the plaza. Sweeney Park would also be redesigned and the playground equipment and basketball courts would be replaced. The design would be reminiscent of the former Granite Square.

Getting Around

Getting around Manchester on foot and by bicycle is difficult. It is getting better but Manchester is still a car-dependent community. With some changes the city could become a far better place for all modes of transportation. Any transportation options should be people-focused and concentrate on alternative modes of getting around. The following are some of our ideas:

  1. Elm Street should be go back to having parallel parking while still utilizing the payment system currently in place. Any lost parking can be replaced with space in existing garages. This would allow the street to be widened and allow for a dedicated bike lane as well as future transportation options. Crosswalks should be slightly raised and made of brick in a color to match the architecture of the area as well as the character of the city. Cast iron arches could be erected at intersections and the current banner program would remain, adding to the vibrant look of the area. Street lights could be replaced with high-efficiency lighting modeled to look like street lamps. The traffic signals would be programmed to allow for safe and efficient flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic as well as bicycles. In addition, the speed limit would be reduced to 25 mph. The street design would start out along Elm Street between Granite and Bridge Streets but could be extended.
  2. Public transit improvements could include the overhauling of the Manchester Transit Authority and investment of additional equipment and personnel. The goal should be to have bus service that runs every 15-20 minutes during peak and every 30-45 minutes during non-peak times and on weekends and holidays. Service should run from 5 a.m. to midnight or later, ending at 11 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.
  3. Street Cars could be added to the MTA fleet and could circulate within the downtown area and neighborhoods within the borders of Webster Street to the North, Maple Street to the East, South Willow Street and Queen City Avenue to the South, and along South Main Street, North Main Street, McGregor Street, and Eddy Road to the west, then over the Amoskeag Bridge back to Elm. City busses would meet street cars at various stations along the routes and carry passengers to the remainder of the city and areas of Hooksett, Auburn / Massabesic Lake area, Londonderry, (including the bus station in North Londonderry), Litchfield, Bedford, and Goffstown. A single ride ticket would be good for continuous travel in one direction both by street car and bus. Transfers would be available to take another bus or street car within two hours of ticket purchase. Multi-ride and monthly passes would include transfers. This type of system would allow busses to serve a larger area as well as neighborhoods not currently served.
  4. The envisioned transportation hub in Downtown would provide regional train, regional bus, and street car service as well as taxi service. Services such as Zipcar and a bike sharing program could also be available at “the hub.” It is important that Manchester once again be served by regional busses that offer the same, if not more, service than before they pulled out of the city and moved to North Londonderry.
  5. Walkability as well as Bikeability would be improved by improving and maintaining sidewalks as well as crossings and creating dedicated bike lanes, (some protected), along major streets such as Elm, South Willow, South and North Main and Daniel Webster Highway. Adding bike racks throughout the city and having a bike sharing program such as the Hubway in Boston would serve those who want to use bicycles as a mode of transportation and would also promote overall bike usage.

Brady Sullivan Plaza mall

Brady Sullivan Plaza
Brady Sullivan Plaza

We would like to see Brady Sullivan Plaza mall transformed into a Downtown movie theatre and retail destination. Several years ago I heard of a plan to add a second level to the plaza that would be used as a multi-screen cinema and the existing first floor would be remodeled and become a modern urban plaza. I’m not sure what ever happened to the plan but would like to see it become reality with the addition of an IMAX theatre. The existing parking garage could be used for the plaza. The plaza could be renamed something like “Manchester Centre” or could be names, (e.g. Brady Sullivan City Centre, DEKA City Centre, FIRST City Centre). The front of the plaza could remain as is and display public art and sculptures. This could become a major Downtown attraction, especially with the addition of a modern cinema and IMAX theatre.

Year-round farmers market

We would like to see an indoor year-round farmers-style market in the city. We believe that an ideal location would be either somewhere close to downtown on the east side, (that offers free parking), or in Granite Square on the West Side. This market would have space outside for the spring, summer, and fall. Products from New Hampshire and New England growers would be sold at the market.

ManchFest

This would be a multi-day or multi-week festival during the summer that celebrates everything that is Manchester and would comprise various events at various venues throughout the city, including Arms Park, Veterans Park, the millyard, Manchester Square, Hanover Street, the Verizon, Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, and Derryfield Park. Some events from the former Riverfest could be incorporated and ManchFest could also include a Jazz Festival such as the one that was previously held in the city. ManchFest could also include the existing auto show, art sales, gallery showings and artist spotlights, theatre productions, a parade, concerts, and of course fireworks. A midway could be considered as well as a special night at a Fisher Cats game. Special charitable events could take place during the festival as well. This would be a time for Manchester to celebrate itself, its history, its identity, and its future.

Innovation

I recently read an article about the development of a plant that glows without the aid of electricity or any outside light. The self-sustaining light works because the plant is merged with luciferin, which is the chemical that enables fireflies to glow. This was done by people at Stony Brook University and designer Dann Roosegaarde. Imagine the implications once this is perfected and ready to be used outdoors as an alternative to street lights. Think about the energy and cost savings – plus how cool it would look.

It is innovation like this that can propel a city into becoming an innovation center. Manchester is already home to Dean Kamen’s DEKA Research and Development company and First, which are great innovators and First promotes science and technology through several programs including the First Lego League and the First Robotics Competition.

Manchester should look at new innovations and be willing to test market the products as well as work at getting the companies to call Manchester home. We would love to see Manchester be one of the first – if not the first – community to use the bioluminescent trees as a source of light as well as have the company headquartered in Manchester.

By the way, self-lighting plants and seeds are available for pre-sale at http://www.glowingplant.com

Bring back a canal!

Providence Waterplace Park in Fall
Providence Waterplace Park in Fall

One of our biggest ideas – if not the biggest – idea is for the city to unearth the upper canal, which basically sits under Bedford Street. A similar project has been done in Providence and has resulted in a beautiful downtown park that hosts events such as Waterfire, (http://waterfire.org), and has led to the redevelopment of the area along the rivers as well as the creation of the Riverwalk and the building of Providence Place, (http://www.providenceplace.com), among other projects. The Providence project included the moving and unearthing of rivers as well as the moving of railroad tracks, (some placed underground). When former mayor Cianci first proposed the project, people thought it was impossible, but he believed what we do; that nothing is impossible!

Waterfire aerial view.Bringing the upper canal back would require a lot of work, but it can be done and would be a great asset for the city if done right. Our idea is that the upper canal be unearthed and that it be used as a backdrop for events – and maybe boating events and races could be held in the canal. The beauty of the canal would also be a great addition to the magnificent, restored millyard.

Give us a sister!

To my surprise, Manchester, NH, is not a sister city of Manchester, UK. I have been told that the idea has been presented to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen but that nothing came of it. Manchester UK is the city that we were modeled after and we are her namesake so it is only fitting that we be sister cities. Having this relationship with Manchester, UK would benefit both cities in that we could share ideas and discuss issues. We could learn a lot from our big sister, (their population was a little over 502,000 in 2011), and she could also learn from her little sister. We could learn about things such as blending historical buildings with new ones, maintaining infrastructure, and how to grow and maintain a great public transit system and become more walkable and bikeable. We need to make this happen!

Conclusion

We realize that there are some big ideas here that would be very large projects, but believe that they can be done if the city and the people are willing to commit to them. The projects would cost money, but we are confident that partnerships could be developed to minimize any public cost. Some ways to finance projects include public-private partnerships, naming rights, Federal grants and support, and ways that we haven’t even thought of. We further believe that neither the people nor the city should shy away from ideas like these because there is a way if we are willing to find it.

We not only see and love Manchester for what it is, but also for what it can be! We hope that you will join the discussion.


Brian Chicoine
Brian Chicoine

About the author: Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980 at the age of 8. He attended Gossler Park Elementary, Parkside and Southside Junior High, and West High, from which he graduated in 1990. After attending Notre Dame College in Manchester, Brian completed his undergraduate degree at Rhode Island College in Providence. Brian and his wife Jackie then came to Manchester in 2004 and were involved in various outreach organizations. Their two boys were born in Manchester during this time. After his position was eliminated in 2009, Brian and his family returned to Rhode Island. They have been living in Providence since 2010. Brian and his family love Manchester and are planning on returning within the next few months. Brian is currently working at helping the city move forward by connecting with other stakeholders and becoming involved with like-minded groups. Brian is also laying the foundation for an organization that will help strengthen the city and help it move forward.

Brian holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and a Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Canyon University. Brian currently works at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also founder of a Facebook Group, Manchester Forward. You can contact him at brian.chicoine1636@gmail.com.


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About Carol Robidoux 5597 Articles

Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.

  • Robert Tarr

    The City of Manchester substations were used by citizens who attended a Cititzen’s Police Academy of sorts. After 2008 til 2011, the program ended do to mainly lack of volunteers, liabilities the City of Manchester Government simply could not afford and people trying to find work and keep their families going. Sad to say, but many substations simply sit vacant year after year.

  • Pete Baker

    Brian –
    I like your idea of “neighborhoods”. I believe that years ago there were named areas of the city. Perhaps these name should be resurrected. I have a concern in regard to creating “official” neighborhoods. The process has to be done carefully. You don’t want it to develop into a “WE” – “THEY”. You want it to become “US”. Creating police sub-station is also a great idea. Rather than a separate building for each sub-station perhaps space in a neighborhood church, school or club hall would work. A school would be ideal in the respect that children would see officers as role models. It could incorporated into a McGruff Crime Prevention Program.

    I’m not a fan of the iron neighborhood gate. It is too institution. I think that a more aesthetic option would be a short red brick (Mills) corner walls with a brick corner lamp post. Little flower gardens could be added to enhance.

  • Jon Hopwood

    You’re right about Granite Square and after visiting Providence some years ago, I thought how great it would be if the Queen City could resurrect its canal. But we live in a city that can’t even properly roll out a recycling program. Manchester seems to be on a path of transformation into Lawrence North. Sadly.

  • One of the recurring things here is the initial building of something nice only to see it fall into disrepair. Something as simple as a light post knocked down in Granite Square last winter has yet to be replaced, still marked by an orange cone. One of these days, I expect the city will decide to pave over the beautiful flower bed that lines mid-street.

    The canal would be great. So would a bit of volunteer work along i293 – how about replacing the scrub growth with a row of flowering bushes like lilacs and other similar ones? Looking at the background picture on this post, wouldn’t a footbridge on those old bridge stanchions, giving access to that beach on the west side be both fun and aesthetically pleasing?

    The Weston Observatory is a pet peeve. I tried to drive up a while ago to take pictures and found it blocked off (see paving over the Granite Street median comment above.) It is an asset. It should be restored and accessible. Close the gate at sundown, but keep it open to the public (and do something to cover over the reservoir so it isn’t such a hindrance to a park setting.)

    Our colleges are an under-utilised strength, but one thing lacking is a first class library. Manchester’s facility is outclassed by say… the Keene State library. A city of this size needs something bigger and better, so it is time to start thinking beyond its current home.

    Finally, I don’t know to what extent rental housing belongs to owners who live outside the area, but I’d love to see stats on it.

  • Jeff Dearman

    I think the Winter Olympics idea would be best as a REGIONAL NEW ENGLAND WIDE OLYMPICS with MANCHESTER NH as a central hub. A OLYMPIC STADIUM would not be good for Manchester. – but several other events could be held in the area, and at an expanded -renovated Verizon Arena. perhaps a dome retractable roof could be added to the fishercats stadium and seats added to be used as a venue as well. Other locations near manchester that could be used for the games would be Lowell Tsongas arena…….TD garden in Boston, Agganis Arena in Boston DCU Center Worcester. Perhaps even the XL Center in Hartford or Rentschler Field in Hartford. Gillette Stadum could be used as the main olympic stadium (with new seating and a retractable roof added.) or a renovated Harvard Stadium – with 30,000 more seats and luxury boxes. (added to the campus for a athletes village at Harvard University.) Most of the Skiing events could be held up around Waterville Valley, Killington, Sunday River ME, and Attitash Bear peak…..as well as Ski Jumping @ Brattleboro Vermont……..the area would be served by new train lines to manchester-Concord. from boston and several expanded airports. (Providence TF Green). Manchedter Intnl .. Worcester Regional , Burlington Intenrational, Lawrence Municpal. – – Pease Intl in Portsmouth NH…. – Portland Intnl Jetport. — Logan Airport. – and Bradley-Hartford. -Springfield. Also a new high speed Montreal, Vermont , NH to Boston rail line and expanded regional transit would help provide transit to and form from the games.

    Overall a region wide 2030 olympic games would benefit the entire community.

    • Jeff, it seems like worthy of creating a FB page or something to crowdsource an idea like this, if it were to become a reality. By spreading the activities around between NH and Boston, and even CT or RI (and Maine?) the region would benefit from the tourism and perks, but no one place would be burdened by the crush of humanity. Someone should figure out who to bring a proposal to and get to proposing…