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November 21. 2012 10:47PM

Liquor store deal surprised Elliot Hospital

MANCHESTER - Elliot Hospital, one of the partners in a company looking to redevelop a key corner on lower Elm Street, has not signed off on plans for a massive New Hampshire liquor store and was not even aware a deal had been signed, the hospital's president and chief executive officer said Wednesday,

Douglas Dean said Elliot Health System and Manchester developer Dick Anagnost are co-owners of a lot at the corner of Elm Street and Brown Avenue. Dean said he did not know about a lease for the liquor store until he read about it in Wednesday's New Hampshire Union Leader.

Dean said he's not even sure he wants the lot to be home to retail business; Elliot envisions the property hosting a use connected to the delivery of health care, he said.

"It's somewhat difficult for us to imagine how a liquor store can achieve that," Dean said.

On Wednesday, the Union Leader reported about plans to convert seven acres of retail and light-industrial land into a shopping center that would include a 12,000-square-foot liquor store. The state Liquor Commission announced Monday it had signed a lease for the River's Edge II location.

Reached Wednesday, Anagnost said he has just started to work on the project, and the liquor store lease is contingent on all sorts of approvals.

"The fact is, the project hasn't germinated," Anagnost said. "There's still a zillion questions that have to be answered before I determine there's a project there."

Last year, Elliot Hospital opened Elliot at River's Edge. The urgent care and outpatient treatment center on Queen City Avenue is about a quarter-mile from the corner of Elm Street and Brown Avenue. The Elliot and Anagnost are also developing an alcohol rehabilitation center across Queen City Avenue from the Elliot facility.

Dean, who spoke to the Union Leader by telephone Wednesday, said he is traveling and not able to speak to Anagnost. But he said that terms of the partnership require that any use of the land be approved by the hospital board of directors. He said Anagnost is aware of that requirement and frequently brings proposals to the attention of the hospital.

"We intend to develop the land principally for the benefit of health care," Dean said. He noted that the Elliot at River's Edge project includes other uses related to health care - a pharmacy, a stalled medical office building and even apartments that could be offered to Elliot workers.

"The question on the board's mind is whether or not they think this is an appropriate use of the land," Dean said. "Would alcohol be my first choice? The answer is no."

Anagnost said he initially proposed the liquor store for Queen City Avenue in front of River's Edge. The Elliot didn't go for it, and that's why a pharmacy is being built there now, he said. Anagnost said he can't understand the Elliot's wariness about putting a liquor store on lower Elm Street until he speaks to Dean.

"It's not any different from any other retail," Anagnost said. The liquor store would be allowed under city zoning. It produces income. And it is not near River's Edge, he said.

Anagnost said he could develop about 30,000 square feet of retail at the location and twice that much office space, but he said the configurations are preliminary and could change before a project solidifies. He said he has issued letters of intent with other tenants.

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Mark Hayward may be reached at mhayward@unionleader.com.