The announced relocation of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield's state headquarters to downtown Manchester is a good thing. Mayor Ted Gatsas springing it on the public, and the aldermen, and demanding an immediate vote on related parking at Tuesday night's meeting was questionable.
The mayor said he had just found out about it the previous week. The city had to move immediately on agreeing to sell its easement on parking garage spaces because the building owner needs time to renovate for Anthem's 250 employees.
A vibrant downtown is important. It needs to be more than restaurants (which are understandably thrilled at hungry Anthem workers). Anthem will make a great anchor tenant for the former headquarters of Bank of America at the corner of Bridge and Elm. The building owner says another tenant, from out of town, will also be moving in.
The city's easement for 68 spaces in the building's garage will be sold to the building owner for $510,000. That is a tidy sum. The mayor said the easement could not be sold on the open market, but on what was the price based? That should have been part of Tuesday's presentation to the board and the issue then held to the next board meeting for final approval. We doubt that a couple of weeks would have killed the Anthem move.
As for overall parking issues, that is not a bad problem to have nor does it appear as dire as some aldermen paint it. When Bank of America moved, it went to what had been the former NYNEX building near City Hall. Its employees have presumably found parking. The Victory Garage is not full, and in 30 days the city will see who wants to build at the Pearl Street lot, perhaps adding spaces beneath multistory housing.
The mayor was right to veto an aldermanic attempt to bypass open bidding on the Pearl Street lot. Some aldermen complained that the mayor was doing the same with the Anthem parking. But it they were truly concerned, they could have voted against selling the city easement. Instead, they chose to grandstand. It makes one think an election is near.