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Manchester considering Second Street redevelopment

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 25. 2013 12:04AM

MANCHESTER - One of the city's oldest business districts could be getting a new look.

The city is considering redevelopment options along Second Street, the West Side corridor parallel to Interstate 293 lined with restaurants, retailers and residential areas.

"It's been a while since something new has been built over there, so it's in need of a little TLC," said Alderman Phil Greazzo. He represents Ward 10, which includes the area from the intersection of Second and Granite streets south to the Manchester-Bedford line.

There are no specific plans in the works. First the city wants to hear from people who live in the area and the businesses that operate along the busy street. The first of several public meetings is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at St. Raphael Parish, 103 Walker St.

"This is basically the first step in the process to see what can be done down there," Greazzo said.

The Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission will conduct a study outlining the mix of commercial and residential zoning along Second Street. Executive Director David Preece said the commission will present city planners with its findings and possible strategies to revitalize Second Street.

"It is one of Manchester's oldest commercial retail corridors, dating back to 1891," Preece said. "There is a scattering of residential zoning and commercial centers along the corridor, but it's just been all brought about kind of haphazardly and now it's time to re-envision this."

The street is also dotted with a handful of vacant buildings - former homes of businesses.

There are sidewalks, but not on every block, limiting access for pedestrians. The road itself is one lane in each direction with a turn lane in-between, leading to traffic backups that can be particularly heavy near the Queen City Ave. Bridge and I-293 access ramps.

David Dion has owned the Dairy Queen at 715 Second St. since 1979. He said the only local redevelopment project he has seen since he purchased the franchise was adding the center turn lane.

"I welcome a study because I think the road is in need of widening or maybe some lighting adjustments," Dion said.

Dion is moving forward with his own redevelopment project, building a brand new DQ Grill and Chill right behind the current building. He's still waiting for final approval from city planners before he can break ground.

Overlay zoning

One option other communities have used is overlay zoning, which Preece said would ease the current restrictions and allow for a mix of residential and commercial redevelopment.

"There is a whole array of what you can do as a mixed zone," Preece said. "It's up to the developers and property owners, but if we give them the incentives to do this, I think it would happen."

But first, Preece said the people who would be affected most by changes need to say what changes they would like to see.

"The first meeting will kind of help frame the discussion on this," Preece said.

"We want to talk to businesses and residents and property owners, listen to them and see what they see as the needs that we need to address in this plan. It's their plan and it's important to listen."

Funding for the study comes from a community planning grant from the New Hampshire Housing and Finance Authority.

Greazzo said Second Street has the potential to rebound, but the public will need to be involved.

"We've see a lot of people buying and redeveloping parts of Elm Street," Greazzo said. "Second Street and South Main are much like Elm. They're the economic engine of west Manchester."

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