MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Board of Directors of the Mark Stebbins Community Center has unanimously voted to seek a new location to place their proposed facility for children and families on the West Side.
The site was originally planned to be built just south of Parkside Middle School on city-owned land that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed to sell to the organization planning to build the community center.
However, neighbors voiced concerns after they felt that their input was not heard prior to choosing the site. Neighbors also voiced concerns over impacts to the community garden on the site, although community center advocates said they would aim to minimize impacts to the garden.
A review of the property revealed that of the more than four acres of land, there was only one acre of buildable space, and promises related to maintaining the garden would have made it difficult to go forward with the project and keep those garden-related promises without scaling back the project.
“The topography, the traffic and the fact that we made promises to neighbors and abutters about our approach led us to the only conclusion, we have to look elsewhere,” says William Steele, Chairman of the center’s Board of Directors. “We were not going to compromise and break promises, so we will find a location that is more suitable to the vision we have for this community center. We deeply appreciate all of the support from parents, neighbors and from the administration and staff at the two schools next door. We are undaunted and simply need to find more space.”
Steele thanked the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen for their support of the project and said in a letter that the organization seeking to build the community center will continue to look for a site on the West Side. Steel added that the project’s board voted to withdraw their agreement to purchase the land from the city.
The proposed space would primarily serve the Manchester Boys and Girls Club and Amoskeag Health, organizations that have aimed to support the well-being of Manchester children and families but have sought more outreach to those on the West Side in the past.
“Our needs assessment makes clear the West Side of Manchester would benefit from programs and activities offered by both Amoskeag Health and the Boys & Girls Club, so we will continue our efforts to find the right place,” says Diane Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester. “As we stated in our letter to the city, Manchester’s West Side is a high-density urban area which is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. Our recent needs assessment study also concluded the West Side has pockets of high and extreme need which is exacerbated by a significant lack of accessible resources and services for young people and their families.”
“I am optimistic and excited about the future,” adds Kris McCracken, President & CEO of Amoskeag Health. “We have made great progress in our plan to bring children-centered health care services and programs to families on the West Side. I am encouraged by the strong support we have received from so many people cheering us on, which makes this effort even more important to those of us working to make it a reality as soon as possible.”
Those interested in contributing to finding a new site are encouraged to e-mail the organization’s board at email@example.com.