More retail for an even greater downtown Manchester

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By Brian Chicoine


COVER PHOTO pic credit Brian Chicoine file


Screen Shot 2015 11 013The Need

I love Manchester. I often hear myself saying that because the city is becoming a vibrant destination city with historical and cultural businesses and events. Of course, the city has issues and is experiencing growing pains, but I am confident that together we will overcome the challenges like we have in the past. Manchester is a resilient city that can – and will – overcome any challenge that it faces. 

Of course there are the naysayers who constantly write their negative opinions on social media or go on about their hatred of the city. But my simple response to the keyboard warriors is to get involved and help make Manchester an even greater city. I tell them to remember that decisions are made by those who show up.

My family and I love to stroll downtown and see the activity and enjoy the atmosphere. We especially like to attend events like Cruising Downtown Manchester or one of the parades (especially the Christmas and St. Patrick’s ones). And of course there is the ever-popular Taco Tour. (One can find out about upcoming events right here in the Ink Link or via other resources such as the Hippo or on the events calendar page of the City of Manchester’s website).  When we stroll Downtown, we like to go to the shops and grab an ice cream and just sit outside the business or at City Hall Plaza. Sometimes we happen to be strolling while there is an event going on at Veterans Park, so we’ll check it out.

Although we love the city and the Downtown area, there is one thing that we would like to see more of…retail. Downtown Manchester has a good array of eateries and bars, but it is lacking retail. There is of course some retail but not a lot. Downtown Manchester was once a mecca of retail (as a planned city much of the retail, restaurants, and banks were on Elm Street to accommodate the workers of the nearby Amoskeag mills). But as we know, many retailers moved to malls or the areas near malls (like South Willow Street) as the automobile became more accessible and people were willing and able to travel for goods. 

Aside from our personal desire, there are some good reasons to have more retail in a downtown area. I believe that a renewed focus on revitalizing downtown retail can play a pivotal role in enhancing Manchester’s economic landscape. What follows are some reasons why more retail would be good for our beloved city.

Walkable Shopping Pic Credit FreePik scaled
More Retail for an even Greater Downtown Manchester. Image/Freepik

Job Creation

Retail businesses are significant job creators, especially in urban centers. From large department stores to small boutiques, retail provides employment opportunities that range from entry-level to managerial positions. These jobs are often accessible to a wide demographic, including those with various levels of education, thereby providing crucial employment opportunities to a broad segment of the population. Furthermore, retail businesses often require a range of support services such as security, maintenance, and logistics, indirectly creating more job opportunities.

Boosting Local Tax Revenues

Retail businesses contribute significantly to local tax bases. Taxes generated from goods and services sold in downtown retail establishments provide a substantial stream of revenue that cities can invest in public services and infrastructure. This infusion of funds is crucial for maintaining roads, parks, and public services that benefit the entire community, thereby enhancing the quality of life in the city.

Many Benefits to Downtown Shopping Image Credit FreePik 1
Many Benefits to Downtown Shopping. Image/Freepik

Enhancing Property Values

The presence of a vibrant retail sector in downtown areas can lead to an increase in property values. Retail establishments attract foot traffic, which in turn increases the demand for nearby residential and commercial spaces. This demand boosts real estate values, benefiting property owners and contributing to the city’s wealth. Higher property values generate more property tax revenue, further enhancing the city’s ability to fund public projects and services. This is an important aspect of lowering property taxes on homeowners in New Hampshire since our state’s budget relies so heavily on this form of taxation.

Attracting Tourism

Downtown areas are often the face of a city, showcasing its unique characteristics and culture. Retail stores, particularly those that offer local products or exotic goods, attract tourists looking for unique shopping experiences. This not only increases retail sales but also benefits nearby hospitality and entertainment businesses. This spending by tourists can be a significant source of revenue for the community.

Supporting Urban Density

Retail in downtown areas supports urban density by promoting a model of mixed-use development where commercial and residential spaces coexist. This density supports public transit systems, (which needs improvement in our city), and reduces dependence on automobiles, which can lead to lower public expenditures on road maintenance and traffic management

Encouraging Sustainable Practices

Downtown retail can lead to the adoption of more sustainable environmental practices, which is important to many people. With a concentration of businesses within walkable distances, both carbon emissions and traffic congestion can be reduced as fewer people rely on cars for shopping trips. Moreover, downtown retail establishments are more likely to be located in existing buildings, making use of the existing urban fabric and reducing the need for new construction, which often consumes green spaces on city outskirts.

Acting as a Catalyst for Further Development

Investment in downtown retail can act as a catalyst for further economic development. A thriving retail environment can attract further investment from both local and foreign investors. Seeing a bustling downtown area gives investors confidence in the economic health of the city, leading to more investments in various sectors such as technology, finance, and services.

Improved public transit encourages downtown development Pic Credit Brian Chicoine file
Improved public transit encourages downtown development – Pic Credit – Brian Chicoine file photo

Strengthening Community Ties

Retail environments are not just about economic transactions; they are also communal spaces where people gather, socialize, and participate in various activities. By providing a central location for people to socialize, downtown retail establishments help strengthen community ties, which is important.

Challenges and Strategies for Success

While there are compelling reasons to focus on revitalizing downtown retail, cities face several challenges, including competition from online retailers and suburban shopping centers. To overcome these challenges, cities can employ strategies such as:

  • Developing Unique Selling Propositions (USPs): Downtown areas can focus on unique shopping experiences that are not things that can be replicated online or in suburban malls.
  • Improving Accessibility and Infrastructure: Enhancing public transportation links, parking facilities, and pedestrian pathways to make downtown areas more accessible.
  • Fostering Public-Private Partnerships: Encouraging collaborations between city authorities and private sector stakeholders to fund and promote downtown development projects.
  • Leveraging Technology: Using and being at the forefront of technology, (such as AI), to enhance the shopping experience. One example are apps that guide shoppers to local businesses or provide information about promotions and events.

Conclusion

Revitalizing retail in downtown areas offers a multitude of economic benefits for cities. From boosting local economies through job creation and tax revenues to enhancing property values, attracting tourism, and supporting sustainable urban lifestyles, the positive impacts are profound and varied. In addition, by promoting a vibrant downtown, cities can reinforce community ties and lay a strong foundation for further economic growth and greater cultural exchange. 

As always, feel free to email your thoughts to me at bchicoinemht@gmail.com.


 

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About this Author

Brian Chicoine

Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980. While a student at Notre Dame College here in Manchester, Brian transferred to Rhode Island College in Providence, where he met his now wife, Jackie. Brian and Jackie spent the next 20 years living in Providence and Manchester, returning to Manchester with their two sons, (who are proud Manchester natives), in the fall of 2017. He and his family intend on staying in Manchester and are committed to helping make it an even better place to live, work, and play.