By Robert S. MacKenzie
Director of Planning & Community Development
Civic Center Area & Gateway Corridor
The New Hub of Northern New England
Sheryl Crow hits town a few weeks after Cher performs to a packed house. Incubus and Monster Trucks are for the young at heart, while Willie Nelson and Neil Diamond will appeal to…ah…my generation. The Bruins take on the Caps and the Celtics meet the Nets in pre-season games. And what would the Christmas season be without a Boston Pops Holiday Concert?
The Fleet Center, right?
Wrong! It’s the Verizon Wireless Arena right here in Manchester, New Hampshire.
With the success of the arena in drawing crowds into the downtown, a quieter revolution will be occurring over the next decade – the gradual transformation of the South downtown area into a vibrant, entertaining area of the City to visit or just hang out.
It’s not just the Arena that’s driving the revolution, however. The renaissance of Elm Street and the Millyard are certainly factors. Of equal importance will be the transportation improvements in the vicinity of Granite Street. This “Gateway Corridor” will see improvements to highway and roadway access, bike and pedestrian trails and potentially a new rail center with service to Boston. The Granite Street exit from I-293 will become a full access exit with northbound and southbound on and off. Granite Street will be widened to accept the additional traffic, but will also be developed into an inviting and attractive “Gateway” to the City. Trail systems will converge on the Singer Park area with the completion of the Riverwalk, connection to the Heritage Trail, the completion of the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge bringing access to the Piscataquog Trail, and the ability to get to the Rockingham Trail which extends easterly to the Seacoast.
The Planning & Community Development Department has recently released a draft of “The Arena Area and Gateway Corridor: Development Opportunities and Strategies”. This report may be reviewed online.
The report shows opportunities for three key areas near the Arena: Merrimack Commons, the Gaslight District and the Warehouse District.
The Merrimack Commons includes the two blocks north the Arena and Lake Avenue between Elm and Chestnut Streets. The potential exists for urban housing adjacent to Victory Park, a hotel at the corner of Elm and Lake Avenue, and smaller shops along Elm Street. The Gaslight District is west of the Arena and is bordered by Granite Street, Elm Street, West Auburn Street and Canal Street. With a number of handsome turn of the century commercial buildings, this area has the potential for a unique ambiance for small restaurants, shops and particularly nightlife. The area south of the Arena bounded by Auburn, Willow, Elm Street and the Railroad has potential for significant new urban retail development.
The City had information workshops on the plans on September 18th and 19th for property owners and other interested persons. A presentation to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is planned for October. If you have any questions, contact Meena Gyawali at 624-6450.