O P I N I O N
Manchester once again finding its groove
Having lived in Manchester for most of my life, I have seen it go from a city trying to find its identity back in the 1980s to a growing city poised to be a premier one in the 21st century. When I moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980, the city was still trying to transform from manufacturing powerhouse to industrial city with some defense-related companies, like Raytheon, sprinkled in.
You see, Manchester had been a premier city. For most of the 19th and some of the early 20th century, thanks to the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, the city was the largest textile manufacturer in the world. After the collapse of Amoskeag during the Great Depression, our city went through a few other issues, but as the city that won’t die, came out of them stronger than it was when the issue started. In the 1980s, our city continued to experience destruction of some great things caused by “urban renewal” projects.
Manchester started finding its groove in the 1980s and 1990s when the city finally loosened zoning regulations to allow for more non-industrial uses in the Millyard, the creation and growth of high-tech firms and other companies. In the near future, the Millyard will be the epicenter of tissue growth and engineering as well as human organ manufacturing.
Of course, we all know of the current crisis and citywide emergency of homelessness and the continuing problem of addiction. This is something that we as a city continue to struggle with and is a complex problem. But I believe that, as in the past, this problem will be overcome – it will take multiple people from multiple organizations to come up with solutions. It will also take bold action as well as looking to other communities who have come up with solutions and adapt them to our city.
Ideas to Make Manchester Even Better
I believe that we can work on solving the ongoing issues of addiction and homelessness while working on the continued development of our city so that it is an even better place for all. (As a city, we need to be able to do both. Yes, we have issues, but we also have opportunities that should not be overlooked or ignored because we are too focused on solving issues. (Of course, I say this as an optimist).
- Increased Biker and Wheeler Safety
As I have previously written, we need to improve safety for people who rely on wheelchairs or use bicycles to get around in our city. In addition to what was proposed in the article, I saw something else on a recent trip to Boston that I think would work well here in Manchester. In high-traffic streets in Boston, they have raised bike lanes. These lanes are about six inches or so higher than the travel lane, and are painted green with a bicycle stenciled in the lane every ¼ mile or so. These lanes, which are generally built when they repave roads, seem to be in areas where vehicles or bollards are not in place to protect wheelers or riders and are separate from sidewalks.This is certainly an idea worth exploring as many of our residents use wheelchairs to get around and an increasing amount of our residents choose to use their bicycles instead of driving. This would also help Manchester become more of a walking city, especially in the Downtown core.
- Arms Park(ing lot).
I have long said that the area that is known as Arms Park should be renovated into a riverside park complete with an outdoor stage/amphitheater next to the river that could house outdoor shows and concerts. To replace lost parking, an “architecturally pleasing” parking garage could be constructed next to the mills on the southern end of the property. In addition to bringing more outdoor shows to our city, it would increase tourism, (especially during festivals), and would enhance the view from the Tru Hotel, which has been constructed across the street at the site of the old Bedford Street lot.
- Downtown Trolley and Increased Public Transportation
The public transit system in Manchester has a lot to be desired, probably because our city has historically been more car-dependent because many places, like grocery stores and retail establishments, moved out of Downtown during the 1970s and 1980s. But this is changing. More businesses are moving Downtown and more people are choosing to live Downtown, mostly because of the convenience. The problem is, although Downtown is pretty walkable, people would like to hop on a Downtown trolley to get to their destination. And for those who live further away from Downtown – like on the West Side and up by the Elliot on the East Side, (not that far from Downtown, but too far to walk), hoping a bus would be convenient. So why not create a rail-less trolley system that loops through Downtown to the West Side, (maybe by CMC) and up Valley Street to the Elliot. Connect that system to the current bus system to allow for more routes that run longer hours as well as reduced trips on Sundays and Holidays.
- Vision is free – Multiple ways to Pay
As I always say, vision is free. It does not cost anything to come up with ideas that improve lives. Some of the exploration as well as the development and implementation are of course not free. However, the ideas presented in this article, as well as most ideas, can be paid for in multiple ways. For example, we have private investment, public-private partnerships, and private grants.
My hope is that we take these ideas and more and research, develop, and implement them. These ideas, along with what I’m sure are many more, can make Manchester – our city – an even greater place to live, work, and play.
Have ideas to improve our city? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.