A LOOK INSIDE
MANCHESTER, NH – History is repeating itself on the corner of Hanover and Union streets, where a new project, The Flats @Hanover, is taking shape and aimed at changing everything about 21st-century downtown living.
Built in 1892 as a the city’s first “purely flat” apartment house, the project was meant to attract movers and shakers looking for a room with a view, and all the modern conveniences of 19th century life, including gas and electric, and a “hand elevator” for hoisting groceries to the upper floors.
Fast forward 124 years and the property is returning to its original purpose, after several incarnations. Over the last century, the four-story brick property has at one time served as public housing for the elderly and infants under the direction of Sacred Heart Hospital, and more recently, the Farnum Center, a residential drug and alcohol rehab.
Now, under the direction of Elm Grove Companies, the building at 235 Hanover St., has been completely made over into 32 Min-i-Flats – that is, studio, one- and two-bedroom flats – best described as state-of-the-art micro-apartments designed for those seeking a luxury lifestyle with optimum efficiencies to keep utility costs low, according to Chris Schleyer, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Monthly rent will range from $900-1,400. The building has controlled access, and is under 24/7 security surveillance with 16 cameras.
Also under one flat roof: The Restoration Cafe, operated by longtime Manchester restaurateur Tom Puskarich, providing eat-in and to-go sustenance for residents and which will be open to the public; a hotel-style workout room; a courtyard lounge; on-site laundry facilities; and a few commercial office spaces, perfect for small business operations like Stay-Work-Play, a non-profit organization focused on attracting and retaining young professionals to the state, which is set to move in as of Oct. 1.
Related story: Zoning board looks at parking lot plan for Flats @ Hanover, signage
Although micro-apartments are a first for Manchester, it’s an idea that is already taking off in urban hubs in the U.S. and around the world, from Tokyo and Hong Kong, to Seattle, Manhattan and Boston.
Response has been strong, says Schleyer. Two-thirds of the units have been pre-leased with approved applicants, and the first tenant will move in around Sept. 23. There are still a few two-bedroom apartments available.
Now that all the LED color-changing lights are in place, and the sleek, space-saving modular furniture and appliances are installed, Elm Grove has been hosting weekly tours. That’s what attracted Jim Coady, 25, of Salisbury, Mass., who saw an ad for The Flats on Craigslist, and stopped by for a recent tour.
He works on Commercial Street at PillPack, and is looking to eliminate his commute, and invest in a more efficient lifestyle.
“It’s definitely unique. I like that it’s so modern and comfortable. I’ve been looking for something that’s new and well maintained, and this has everything – I like it from the outside and the inside,” Coady says.
Coady fits the profile of the target tenant, says Schleyer – a young professional looking for a comfortable landing place after working and playing in the city. Maybe someone who doesn’t want the burden of a car, prefers to walk or bicycle, and who wants to be connected within a small community of like-minded millennials.
But the ideal tenant, it turns out based on approved applicants so far, fits a number of profiles, including mid-career metropolitan types, empty-nesters looking to downsize, and even retirees ready for the next phase, which includes a minimalist yet luxurious lifestyle.
The renovation of the building was like baking something from scratch, says Schleyer. Many of the elements included in the project were repurposed – like cafe table tops fashioned from bowling lanes from a defunct Vermont bowling alley. The original entry-way woodwork has been retained and restored, and the iron gate that leads to the patio was salvaged.
Investing in such a forward-thinking project in an untested market may be regarded as a bit of a risk, but Schleyer says Elm Grove did its homework, and believes the project is already a success, based on public interest and response, so far.
Elm Grove is banking on the old adage, “if you build it, they will come,” the “it” being a trendy apartment complex with a community feel, and the “they” being those interested in squeezing the most out of big city living.
Without being too specific, the company’s investment has been “more than $1 million and less than $3 million,” says Schleyer.
“Some see the world through a dark lens, some through an optimistic lens. Optimists tend to be doers, and for a project like this, we’re risking our own money and reputation on a project that we fully believe in,” says Schleyer. “This comes with a tremendous amount of research. We’ve passed on many risky projects in the past. We saw an opportunity here, not only in terms of the project itself, but in terms of what it will bring to the comunity – a renaissance for this already vibrant neighborhood of fine dining, the Palace Theatre and the millyard – including quality of life.”