"The Verizon (Wireless Arena) did well for Manchester; the airport has done well; but the next big step is to bring residential back downtown," said Arthur Sullivan, principal partner in Brady Sullivan Properties, developers of The Lofts project.
Sullivan was one of eight panelists at a workshop on Tuesday at the Center of New Hampshire hosted by Intown Manchester. Titled "Next Steps Summit," the day-long event was conceived as a strategic planning session for the downtown area.
More than 100 business owners, municipal officials, developers and other stakeholders were on hand for a morning panel discussion, after which they broke into small groups to discuss priorities and recommend the next steps in the ongoing revitalization of Elm Street, the Millyard and surrounding areas.
Sullivan told the group the response to The Lofts at Mill Number One has convinced him that "a lot of people think it would be pretty cool to live in Manchester in the Millyard."
With real estate holdings throughout the downtown area, Brady Sullivan is bullish on residential development, Sullivan said, with another 300-apartment building under way just across the river from the Millyard called Mill West.
"Once more people start living downtown again, you are going to see a downtown renaissance, and it won't just be restaurants," he said.
Another major Manchester developer, Dick Anagnost, president of Anagnost Companies, said he has a lot of confidence in Manchester, particularly when it comes to downtown apartments. "We are seeing a lot of growth in demand by tenants," he said, "and South Elm Street seems to be the place to be."
Among the many projects under development by Anagnost is a four-story, multi-family building near the Elliot at River's Edge that will house 50 to 52 new units.
The city's deputy director of planning and community development, Pamela Coucher, agreed that the development of new housing downtown will be key to the city's economic future. "We need the type of housing that will keep the young people here after they graduate," she said. "We need to look at the housing scene for young people just as we need restaurants, shops and entertainment venues."
She suggested that amenities like sidewalks, landscaping and lighting need to be an integral part of the planning process, so the city doesn't end up with nice buildings in a bland environment. "We need to look at the benefits of aesthetics, and make sure aesthetics are incorporated into our design and development," she said. "Amenities are not just 'wants' that we can't afford. They set the stage for future businesses, and employees who will want to come to Manchester because it is an attractive city.
Other participants in the morning panel were Don Clark, property manager for DEKA Research and Development; Jamie Coughlin, executive director of the abi Innovation Hub; Aurore Eaton, executive director of the Manchester Historic Association; Kate Luczko, executive director of "Stay, Work, Play in N.H," and John Mortimer, founder of Millennium Running.