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Builder’s Manchester dorm plan runs into aldermen's resistance

MANCHESTER — Five aldermen disagreed Monday on how to move forward with a proposal to build an eight-story downtown residence for college students, leaving it for the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen to sort out next month.

The Land and Buildings Committee voted, 3-2, to have the Massachusetts-based VMD Companies follow established city procedures, which call for the city to deem any property it wants to sell a surplus and put it up for auction.VMD hopes to develop student housing on the 3-acre, city-owned Pearl Street parking lot.

The $40 million to $70 million project includes three lower floors of public parking and six floors of housing for 200 to 300 students.

At the end of a lengthy discussion, Jim Vitas, VMD chief executive, said he will go through the formal process if he must.

“The city very well knows how long we’ve been working with them for it,” Vitas said. Two aldermen wanted the city to bypass the lengthy procedure and accept the company’s $900,000 offer for the Pearl Street lot. Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw of south Manchester said VMD has waited long enough and has not received direction from the city about how to proceed.“

It was unbelievable; it was embarrassing,” she said. She was joined by At-Large Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur, whose proposals were shot down by the three other members of the committee.

They favored an auction if the property were determined surplus, and city officials estimate the property value at $1.2 million.

“It’s too quick, too fast,” said committee Chairman Ed Osborne, who stressed the project will have an impact on the downtown. “It’s still a big question mark here. Which way do we want Manchester to grow?”


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