Civic group Manchester Connects releases new report on strategies to help downtown, Millyard grow

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Manchester Connects participants look over plans during a June brainstorming session. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH — The grass roots, local community group known as Manchester Connects today released a new report on the potential for cultural and economic development by means of five key initiatives in the city’s downtown and Millyard.

The report, more than a year in the making, was developed with broad community input after a series of public meetings and workshops in which more than 200 city residents shared ideas and visions for the future of Manchester.

The study was underwritten with local financial support and a federal grant to the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, which engaged Boston consulting firm Civic Moxie to oversee production of the report and action kits.

The Manchester Connects report will be the topic of a facilitated Town Hall Discussion at UNH-Manchester, hosted by the UNH Manchester Politics & Society program on Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m. Click here for more information and to register. 

“This is not a report that is going to gather dust on a shelf in someone’s office,” said John Clayton, executive director of the Manchester Historic Association and Manchester Connects volunteer. “This is a blueprint for making our community a more vital, inviting place, and it comes at a time when the city is on the verge of making extraordinary advances.”

The five goals detailed in the report are:

  1. Create Vibrant Public Spaces 
    Manchester would benefit from more social destinations downtown, in the Millyard and on the West Side. Businesses, community groups and city government can add tremendous social capital by working together to create a mix of events and inviting spaces that encourage people to move throughout the community, resulting in greater social and businesses connections.
  2. Promote Complete Streets Design and Multimodal Transportation Choices 
    Research shows that the more street intersections that exist, the more opportunities there are for human interaction and vitality. With more than 98 percent of Millyard employees driving to work alone or in a carpool, upgrading streets so they are more welcoming for pedestrians, bicycles and transit can put more people on the city’s sidewalks, adding to vitality and providing foot traffic for businesses while also easing demand on parking. 
     
  3. Build a World-Class Riverwalk and Iconic Pedestrian Bridge 
    Active and well-designed urban waterfronts around the world support economic development and enhance livability. Manchester has a wonderful river, but its riverfront was never developed as a recreation area. Without a vibrant Riverwalk and second pedestrian bridge, the river will remain an underdeveloped asset. These amenities will build community spirit and connections while attracting the young people Manchester needs to grow. Businesses, in turn, will follow.
  4. Support Mixed Land Uses and Smart Parking Strategies 
    The Millyard is predominately office and educational land uses. Dining options are few and the limited number of residential buildings doesn’t provide enough residents to support the range of active ground-floor uses that would draw more activity and animate the street life of the area. An integrated solution to land uses and parking strategies can help solve some of the challenges of an inactive ground floor and put more property into economic use. 
  5. Sustain the Organization “Manchester Connects” 
    Manchester is teeming with entrepreneurs, civic leaders, collaborators and energy. To make the most of those resources, people need to stay connected with one another. By facilitating connections among the people and institutions that want to make Manchester a better place to live, work, and play, this organization will be a catalyst for the city’s future development.

“The findings of this report provide our community with an exciting roadmap to create a more connected, vibrant, and walkable city,” said Michael Skelton, President and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (GMCC). “The recommendations range from big picture initiatives that will require long term planning and coordination between the City and key stakeholders, and to smaller projects that require minimal investment but are actionable today and can be powered by the amazing grassroots support that Manchester Connects enjoys.

“The GMCC is pleased to support Manchester Connects,” he added, “and applauds the incredible work of the volunteers who have guided this initiative from inception to today.”

View the complete online report here