MANCHESTER, N.H. – Two downtown proposals were front and center at the Manchester Planning Board on Thursday night as the demand for housing continues to fuel new apartments in the city’s central business district.
Representatives of a proposed 55-unit development at 80 Merrimack St. was the first of the two proposals, looking to obtain a conditional use permit to redevelop the current building on site.
The building is one of three at the intersection of Merrimack and Chestnut streets being redeveloped, and will bring approximately 170 combined affordable units upon completion. The 80 Merrimack St. proposal does not have any on-site parking, although residents would have access to 15 spots connected to the three-building “complex” and bicycle parking locations at the property. The possibility of dedicated ride-sharing vehicles onsite and leasing spots nearby on Chestnut Street could alleviate the issue of parking as well, according to representatives of the project, which seemed to be enough for members of the Planning Board.
Representatives of the proposed building also agreed to work with owners of neighboring units on a shared entranceway that could be too narrow following current construction plans.
The public hearing on 80 Merrimack St. was closed following Thursday’s discussion, but the Planning Board was unable to close the public hearing on the other major proposal on the docket, 1230 Elm St.
That proposal, which recently received relief from the Zoning Board of Adjustment from minimum square footage requirements, seeks to change the use of a current building from primarily office space to over 100 residential units.
The building, just north of Bridge Street, saw significant opposition from residents of the Amoskeag Terrace neighborhood, which roughly stretches from Canal Street to the back side of 1230 Elm St.
Over a dozen residents of Amoskeag Terrace were in the audience, with several testifying in opposition to the proposal.
Amoskeag Terrace Association President David Cuzzi expressed concern about how 1230 Elm St. would impact local residents with dogs and the neighborhood’s courtyards, but made a particular point of concern regarding parking.
Cuzzi said that in the past, there had been shuttle service for the office workers at 1230 Elm St., and many of those people parked at times when residents at Amoskeag Terrace were not parked there.
Unlike 80 Merrimack St., the proposal at 1230 Elm St. is market-rate, bringing a higher possibility that residents will expect parking spaces and the new paradigm in the neighborhood will bring 150 to 200 cars competing for 30 spots in the area.
“This is Manchester, not Manhattan,” he said. “There isn’t going to be a T-Stop. Pretty much everybody will have a car.”
Planning Board Vice Chair Sean Sargent said that the Planning Board cannot compel parking in the 1230 Elm St. Change of Use Proposal since the city’s zoning ordinance does not require parking for buildings located in the city’s central business district. However, he did say that the potential of overcrowding could be a concern if delivery drivers cause traffic concerns in the area.
In regard to parking,Sargent and others noted that the city’s newly revised master plan not only reaffirms the lack of required parking downtown for projects, but also hopes to create greater density in connection with increased mass transit infrastructure.
Planning Board Chairman Bryce Kaw-uh also expressed concern with six proposed units at 1230 Elm St. that do not have any windows.
Spokesperson Roy Tilsley told Kaw-uh that there is an expectation that tenants will still lease the units despite the lack of windows, although that could change depending on market pressures.
Additional discussion and a likely decision on the change of use for 1230 Elm St. as well as a decision on 80 Merrimack St. are expected at the Planning Board’s next meeting on Nov. 17.
Additional discussion on a proposed eight-story tower on Central Street, another downtown project that has been before the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment in recent months, was postponed on Thursday night. That discussion and a determination on those requests are expected on Nov. 17 as well.