HOOKSETT — Southern New Hampshire University plans to revise a proposal that would pave the way for new office space for up to 100 employees, after the school’s initial plan was rejected by Hooksett planners over traffic concerns.
The university has requested a temporary waiver on a 30,000-square-foot office building once used by CB Sullivan at 15 West Alice Drive, just north of Exit 9 off Interstate 93. The university aims to use the building, which is currently set up to hold up to 100 workers in primarily cubical spaces, as a temporary office facility for information technology and online staff.
The Hooksett Planning Board rejected SNHU’s plan by a 4-3 vote on May 19. An additional proposal to turn a warehouse at 19 Alice Drive into practice space for the SNHU music program was tabled.
“(SNHU) didn’t have a lot of information on traffic and things of that nature, so some board members wanted to see if they could come back with a more detailed traffic analysis,” said Hooksett Assistant Planner Carolyn Cronin. “The board essentially asked them to reapply on the office space once they had some additional information, and it sounds like they’re planning on coming back on June 16 to do just that.”
SNHU currently has about 700 employees working on its main campus and another 600 to 700 employees for the school's much-heralded online program. But TFMoran Civil Project Supervisor Jeffrey Kevan, the engineer in charge of the Hooksett project, said more jobs are likely in the near future. “The online program is growing, so they already have additional space down at the (Manchester) mill building for the online program that drives many of their various administrative services such as enrollment, financial aid, that type of stuff.
“All these online people need to register as well, so that department needs to get bigger to keep up with online program, meaning it could feasibly bring more jobs to Hooksett. It’s just hard to say exactly how many jobs we’re talking about.”
Hooksett planners also recently approved a new connector road from the main campus to Donati Drive, which Cronin said may ease some traffic concerns.
“We have a good relationship with SNHU, and they’re definitely growing, but we also have some very vocal abutters in the area, so the board is trying to work with SNHU, while also trying to make the abutters happy, so it does get kind of contentious at times,” Cronin said.
Elizabeth Gorham was one of three residents to express traffic concerns at the May 19 meeting.
“I don’t believe (CB Sullivan) had 100 staff members at that location, so I believe the traffic will pick up a lot,” Gorham told the board. “It is a busy road now, and it will get worse ... Obviously, we want to work with SNHU, it is a beautiful school, but I want to protect the neighborhood as well.”
Kevan said the change in use at the building wouldn’t greatly change traffic. In addition, he said there is likely to be little need for those using the temporary office space to travel back and forth to the main campus.
“The office space will be used primarily for administrative services, basically as swing space for the university to use temporarily while it’s renovating another building,” he said.