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Developers think Guard site would have big potential

MANCHESTER - In a densely populated city such as Manchester, a 1-acre lot can be hard to find, especially near downtown.

A 9-acre lot? Nearly impossible. But nine acres could become available if the New Hampshire National Guard were to find the money to move its largest armory from its North End location, 1059 Canal St. It's a thought that intrigues developers.

"It's obviously a phenomenal development site," said Arthur Sullivan, principal of Brady-Sullivan Properties. "It's right off the bridge, it's got exposure. It has all the right ingredients for a great development."

The land is valued at $10.5 million by the city's tax assessors, although it is exempt from taxes.

Sullivan said just about anything could work there: a high-end hotel and convention center, a retail strip, an office building, high-end apartments. The lot could even host an all-of-the-above, mixed-use development, he said.

Sullivan said young, affluent people are renting high-end apartments that his firm rehabilitated on Bedford Street in the Millyard and at the Mill West property. They have the income to spend on amenities, and they want to live in a walkable environment.

"They're a real game-changer," Sullivan said. That's why a mixed-use property could work at the armory site, he said.

Speculation about the parcel has been going on for decades, said Mike Reed of Stebbins Commercial Properties.

"It's a prime piece of property. It's one of the major entranceways to the city," he said.

But the land is owned by Amoskeag Industries. If the National Guard ever moves, Amoskeag would regain control of the land.

That wouldn't be a deal breaker, however, Reed said.

"It's just a complication," he said.

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