I am a Westsider. I have lived on the West Side for most of my Manchester life (moved from Raymond back in 1980). I went to Gossler, Parkside, and West, (Go Blue Knights!), and most of my friends growing up lived on the West Side (even when I was on the East Side). My wife and I intentionally made our “permanent” home on the West Side after returning to Manchester (we temporarily lived on the East Side when we first arrived – and are very grateful for that opportunity).
Of course, some of my friends who once lived on the West Side warned me against living there because it has become “very bad.” (Then again, it was also suggested that we not return to Manchester because of “how bad it is.”) But we’re here and love it! We love the neighborhood vibe and being close to everything (and yes, we walk the mean streets of the West Side).
I very much care about what happens in our city, and especially over here on the west side of the river. There are some things that could change on the West Side that would not only benefit the area, but the city as a whole.
A Place to Shop
Ever since Vista Foods closed its doors there has been a void on the West Side as we do not have a place to buy groceries in our area. Sure, there are (limited) grocery items available as 7-Eleven, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS, and there are small markets, but we do not have a mid-size grocery store like we had with Vista Foods. My particular concern is with those who do not drive and may have a hard time lugging a week’s worth of groceries on a bus or in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle. Here’s my idea: Reconfigure the footprint of the existing Rite Aid plaza on McGregor Street (next to Catholic Medical Center), and get a mid-size grocery store to move in (like Aldi – they already have a presence in Manchester and are expanding. Their stores would be a great size for the West Side). Even without reconfiguring the footprint, an Aldi, (or similar store – maybe a local), could fit.
A Place to Park, (it’s snowing…get off the streets!)
One thing that is a recurring issue on the West Side is the limited amount of off-street parking for those who live in apartments. This is especially noticeable during snow emergencies. The City does provide free overnight parking at two locations and there are paid spaces available at various areas on the West Side, but the fact is that not all people can walk across the river or afford the fees that are charged for parking. My question is this: Has anyone seriously considered solutions? I have a couple ideas for this.
My first idea is to partner with Catholic Medical Center to use designated spaces in their parking garage from 8 p.m. to 6 or 7 a.m. A nominal fee could be charged for each vehicle parked (charged to the driver of course). Any vehicles not out by the designated time would be towed unless other arrangements are made. My second idea would be to build another West Side parking garage as part of a larger project (more on that in the Granite Square section). A third option would be to add a parking deck in front of the Rite Aid plaza, (especially if the plaza is redesigned) and to designate overnight space there during snow emergencies (for a fee to parkers).
A Place to Park, (helping the Millyard)
Regardless of the area’s layout, we are in a time when many people drive and there is a need for parking. Southern New Hampshire University will be building an approximately 1,700-space on South Commercial Street (next to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium). The garage, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2019, will relieve some of the burden from local surface spaces and garages but will not solve the issue. The Millyard is growing and we need to continue to come up with and discuss solutions. Here’s my idea: Partner with Catholic Medical Center to provide a set number of parking spaces in the lot (say the southern part closest to West High School). Fees for use of the lot would be paid by employers and a portion of the money could go to the Manchester Transit Authority to expand the Green Dash service, (creating a loop from Downtown through the Millyard and up Main Street stopping at the lot and continuing via McGregor Street and the Notre Dame Bridge back to Downtown).
I believe that one of the biggest mistakes ever made was the destruction of the old Granite Square and its replacement with the current sterile screaming-of-a-failed-urban-renewal project that currently occupies the space (guess how I feel about it!) I understand that the original Granite Square was old and burned, but it seems that little to no thought was put into retaining the aesthetics or character of the neighborhood when the replacement was designed. It seems that the thought was to simply erect buildings and start making money. My thought on this:
Tear down the current plaza and replace it with a new building that has the design of the original, (which should have been done in the first place if the building needed to be replaced). Allow the current businesses to occupy space and design it so that covered parking can be made available behind the building. It is also possible to design the building so that a medium grocery store could fit on the ground level. (For visual reference, check out the from the City of Manchester’s website. The lots that I am referring to are 305-5, 316-21, and 316-22).
Looking at other Cities
Having spent a considerable amount of time in larger cities has allowed me to look at what has been done elsewhere, and apply those ideas to Manchester. While MHT is not a large city, we do have space limitations (especially on the West Side because the population density is high, a lot of people in a relatively small area). Plus, much of the area was designed and built before the population boom.
These ideas would take discussion, solid planning, and a willingness of people to come together to brainstorm and develop solutions as well as work together on their execution.
Solutions to our space issues are not – and should not be – driven by political ideology or preference. These solutions are meant to help Manchester continue to move forward and for it to be a great city to live, work, and play. So, I’m calling on elected officials, civic leaders, business owners, and residents to step-up, work together, and get it done!
Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who has come home after spending several years living in Providence, Rhode Island. Brian and his family are excited to be back in Manchester and are focused on contributing to their community. Brian is the founder of Manchester Forward, a group that is dedicated to celebrating our city, honoring its history, and advocating for its smart growth. Brian merges his life experiences with his passions for innovation and community to develop his articles. Brian and his family live on the West Side. Brian can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.