MANCHESTER, NH – Last Thursday, the Manchester Planning Board received updates on a new mixed-use development and parking garage that will eventually replace the current Pearl Street Parking Lot.
The proposal stems from a request from the city to develop the Pearl Street and Hartnett Street Parking Lots into new mixed-use buildings that include affordable housing and at least as much parking on site as there was when it was just a parking lot.
On Pearl Street, the transformation will include three separate components: a 314-apartment seven-story building on the southern part of the lot known as “The Pearl,” a 52-unit six-story affordable housing complex along Orange Street that will be owned by NeighborWorks New Hampshire and a 540-space parking garage in between the two buildings.
Upon its completion, the parking garage is expected to have 245 parking spaces for public use.
The Pearl will also house 60 workforce housing units and 114 “podium” parking spaces on its first floor in addition to expected retail spaces.
Thursday’s public hearing provided information for two items where the proposal needs Planning Board review: approval of the proposal’s site plan and conditional permit approval for first-floor residential units in the NeighborWorks building, which is needed in this case under the city’s zoning ordinances, since the building is in the city’s Central Business District.
Due to the slope of the buildings, the residential units in the NeighborWorks Orange Street building will be in the western part of the building. Entrances to the garage and the Pearl are also expected to be facing west as well, with the Pearl’s entrance likely to be slightly southwest pointing toward the intersection of Elm and Bridge streets.
Experts speaking on behalf of the applicant told the board that the light footprint of the proposal would not significantly impact neighbors, the impact to nearby intersections would not deviate largely from current levels and the buildings would use 100,000 of the city’s current 25-million gallon excess sewer capacity.
The two mostly residential buildings will also have different architectural styles, with the Orange Street building aiming to emulate the colors of nearby buildings and the Pearl mainly covered in earth tones and light blue trim.
Planning Board member Sean Sargent confirmed with representatives of the developer that the city requires the “workforce” units to be no more than a third of the income for households making 80 percent of the area average median income (AMI), placing them at approximately $1,300 to $1,700. The “affordable” units in the Orange Street building will be no more than 60 percent of AMI, and potentially even less, due to tax credit considerations related to the project.
Per the agreement with the city, construction on the site must begin by November, although it is expected to begin sometime around late September to early October if Planning Board approval is given on the two items. At that point, public access to the parking on the site will be removed for likely somewhere between 18 and 24 months.
A replacement site for the Pearl Street Lot for winter parking emergencies is still being considered.
No action was taken on Thursday, with a decision expected at the Planning Board’s next meeting later this month.