O P I N I O N
I was driving the other day by the building being demolished in the Gaslight District over by Market Basket. As I drove by the lot where the old warehouse once stood, I could see the new building being constructed on Elm Street, across from Market Basket. Looking toward the new building, I began thinking how much has changed in Manchester since I first moved here back in 1980.
I moved to Manchester from Raymond as an 8-year-old child in 1980. When I moved here, the population of our city was a little less than 91,000. The population of Manchester as of July 2021 stood at almost 115,500. The city has grown and has also gotten more of an urban feel since I moved here 42 years ago. The Manchester of 2022 is a lot different than the Manchester of 1980.
I could write about the negative things that plague our city; things that we hear about all the time, such as addiction and homelessness, but I’m not. Or I could lament about the unaffordable housing situation, (which I have written about), but I am not going to – not in this article anyway. Instead, I want to focus on some of the good things that have come from the growth of our city, because I understand that city living is a balance of the good and the bad and because I’m confident that good will overtake the bad.
The first thing that I have noticed is the many residential buildings that are being built in our city. We have the aforementioned almost completed building on Elm Street, across from Market Basket. We also have the conversion of the building that once housed Lemay Jewelers at 1225 Elm Street, just north of Bridge Street, into housing units. There is the project in the Gaslight district, which is planned to have a mix of housing and retail, as well as the one at 530-540 Chestnut Street, which will result in the former office building being converted into residential space. There are at least a dozen more projects that have residential elements slated to be built in our city in the very near future. Plus with the possible, (maybe I should say probable), development in the area around where the Fisher Cats play, there is the strong possibility of more housing as well as retail and other businesses coming to our city.
In addition to housing, we have had more restaurants and retail move Downtown. This is the opposite of what was happening while I was growing up, (who remembers McDonald’s on Elm Street closing? To me, that showed just how low Elm Street was going). We’ve had a bookstore, as well as several restaurants and other businesses, move Downtown. More businesses opening Downtown means more people visiting our city! (We actually have a full Downtown exit on the highway. Didn’t have that when I was a kid…who needed to come to Downtown Manchester?).
Speaking of Downtown, we now have several festivals that did not exist while I was growing up, including the ever-popular Taco Tour and Cruising Downtown. And of course we have parades such as St. Patrick’s and the Christmas Parade, (the one with the lit floats as our younger child used to say). And the parades that honor our soldiers – the Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades. (One festival that I’d like to see come back as a modernized festival is Riverfest – Manchester celebrating itself!). And we cannot forget that this year brought the return of the Sky Show with a new organizer and look.
So what else attracts people to Manchester?
Sports and arena events of course! In 2005, we got a professional baseball stadium, now called Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. The stadium is home to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats professional baseball team, which came to our city in 2004, but played its inaugural year at Gill Stadium while its permanent home was being built.
A few years before the new stadium, Manchester saw the opening of what is now called the SNHU Arena, (before it opened, the arena was called the “Manchester Civic Arena,” but then Verizon Wireless bought the naming rights so it was re-named the “Verizon Wireless Arena”). Last, but not least, we have the performance venues. Three come to mind. We have the re-opened Rex Theatre, as well as Jewel Music Venue, and Angel City Music Hall.
There are many more things that have opened as well as things that are yet to come to our community, so let’s take some time to go and enjoy the places and events of our ever-changing city! And I would be remiss if I did not mention that the long-standing Dunkin’ on Elm Street at Valley Street will finally have a drive-thru. We are even seeing changes for people who want a dose of caffeine!