MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Manchester Planning Board got a first look at a proposal to transform significant portions of 1000 Elm St. into residential units and could grant approval for the transformation later this month.
Also known as Brady Sullivan Plaza, representatives of the proposal sought approval of a site plan application that would change the use of 189,331 square feet of office space into 155 residential units in the “tower” portion of the property and a conditional use permit to allow residential units on the ground floor of the plaza.
In the ground floor renovation, the residential units would go in where dormitory space once stood between Plaza Drive, Mechanic Street and a set of several commercial units facing out toward Elm Street. The proposal sought to remove the three commercial units between Thousand Crane and Mechanic Street and replace them with two additional dormitory units, citing a lack of demand for commercial units compared to the need for housing in the city.
Members of the board felt that the removal of the three commercial units would not fit within the spirit of the city’s newly updated master plan, which seeks mixed-use properties in the downtown area. Attorney John Cronin, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said that the commercial space between Thousand Crane and Mechanic Street could be preserved in some form.
There were also questions regarding natural lighting for the dormitory areas, with most units relying entirely skylights, as well as whether proposed common area amenities could go in areas without any skylights, or if the non-skylight areas could be transformed into courtyards. Architect Jeff Lewis said that originally the plan was that “the city would serve as the tenant’s playground” instead of additional amenities on site beyond those originally planned such as a gym and a centralized mail service. However, that too became a possible modification to be presented along with concerns by the board over street-side foliage, signage and a possible new entrance on Mechanic Street.
In contrast to the first-floor units, the board felt comfortable with the changes to the adjacent 20-story tower, as several floors transformed into primarily two-bedroom apartments, which representatives of the applicant said would be rented at market-rates.
In response to a question from Planning Board Member Sean Sargent, Cronin said the new tower will aim to attract residents already living elsewhere in Manchester and prospective residents from places like Boston that would be enticed by brand-new renovated units in an iconic building downtown at prices lower than cities such as Boston.
Additional residential units are expected in what is currently the northwestern part of the lot in a second phase of construction, removing some parking spaces. However, the garage separated from the plaza by Plaza Drive would remain without changes.
Due to the lingering questions on the plaza portion of the transformation, the board did not close the public hearing on the proposal. However, staff members told representatives of the applicants that action could be taken at the board’s business hearing later this month if they could submit new documentation in a week, which Cronin said is feasible.