MANCHESTER, NH – On the corner of Elm and Merrimack streets, in the belly of the Pembroke Building just below the Thirsty Moose, is an amazing space just waiting to happen.
Norri Gasser Oberlander, vice president of North End Properties, says she’s looking for a specific kind of commercial business to lease the 4,250-square-foot basement.
“Nothing that would compete with the Thirsty Moose. No club. No cigars,” says Oberlander, who was outlining her vision during a recent Chamber of Commerce business spotlight lunch.
“I can see it as a coffee bar by day and maybe a martini bar by night – really, we’re open to all concepts. My father always wanted it to be a speakeasy. But a place with comfy seating for wine, martinis and tapas. We’re not in a rush,” Oberlander says. “We’ve never rented the space before, so we’re willing to wait for the right leasee; something that’s not already here; something the city needs.”
The basement is kitchen-ready, and has an energy recovery vent to bring in fresh air. There’s elevator access and a small staircase with a wide berth. Everything’s been refurbished – except for flooring, which will depend on the use, says Oberlander who, along with her father, Bernie Gasser, runs the family-owned property management business. They handle 75 percent residential and 25 percent commercial properties in the greater Manchester area, which equates to about 80 residential spaces, she says, and more commercial units behind Masa on South Willow Street.
There are 20 one-bedroom luxury apartments at the Pembroke Building, 795 Elm Street, on floors 3 through 6, which range in price from $1,250 – $1,600 per month. They’re are always full, says Oberlander (see more photos here.)
“When my father first started with the luxury apartments, they were designed to be switched back to office space, as needed. Thankfully, we don’t need to do that, because the apartments are thriving – we rarely have a vacancy,” Oberlander says.
Luxury apartments seem to be the trend in downtown living – with the Wall Street Towers and Residences at Manchester Place, and the latest addition – Bill Binnie’s project just a block away, in the Citizen’s Bank Building, which just opened last year.
The lunch-hour tour of the Pembroke building included two of the Pembroke apartments as well as a 1,084-square-foot office space, also ready to rent, with lots of natural lighting, high ceilings, and a bathroom with shower. It would be perfect for a yoga or massage business – or just about any kind of professional office space, Oberlander says.
City Health Department Director Tim Soucy joined the tour for a chance to revisit his old office space on the fourth floor.
“My desk was right over here,” says Soucy, walking toward a window with a view of Elm Street, for a nostalgic look-see.
The Victorian-era building has been restored to its original use as a residential property, by Gasser, earning him a Historic Preservation Award.
About 30 Chamber members took the tours, in groups of three, with an opportunity to hear all about the history and restoration process – particularly those in Gasser’s group.
“My dad will tell you more than you’ll ever want to know about the building,” says Oberlander, pointing out the collections of historic photographs that grace the hallways on each floor.
Oberlander is among those young professionals who’ve returned to their New Hampshire roots, enticed by the sense of urban renewal taking place. A Bedford native, Oberlander left for college in New York, and thought she’d never look back.
“But when I saw how the downtown was flourishing, my husband and I moved back to the area. The city gives me the urban feel I longed for, and I adore everything that’s happening,” she says.
She’s fielding all serious inquiries about the potential for the Pembroke basement space. She can be reached at 603-641-3838, or firstname.lastname@example.org.