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UNH-Manchester, Kamen team up in move to Pandora building

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 04. 2014 8:49PM
Manchester inventor Dean Kamen listens Thursday to presentations at the "groundbreaking" of the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, which is moving to his Pandora mill building in the spring. (MARK HAYWARD/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — The University of New Hampshire staked its claim to a highly visible, highly valuable chunk of Manchester on Thursday when it officially “broke ground” on its new Millyard location.

No ground was actually broken — the University of New Hampshire-Manchester campus is moving to the six-story, 164-year-old Pandora mill building.

And the move hasn’t happened yet; classrooms, students and offices aren’t expected to move until the end of the spring semester.

But politicians, university officials and the owner of Pandora, Manchester inventor Dean Kamen, gathered at a ceremony Thursday to celebrate the pending move and its anticipated effect on efforts to educate future workers for tech-heavy Millyard companies.

“This community has got to start working hard to earn its place as a leader in education and technology, and everything else will follow,” said Kamen, who is credited with early efforts to convert the Millyard to a technology hub.

In a more immediate sense, the deal provides breathing room for both Kamen’s DEKA Research and Development Corporation, which has doubled its work force to 600 in the past two years, and UNH-Manchester.

Under the terms, UNH will sell the current UNH-Manchester campus at 400 Commercial St. to Kamen, whose company is adjacent to the university building.

Kamen will pay $3.14 million for the building. He will retain ownership of the Pandora building, which the university will rent for $2 million a year. The university plans to sink $8 million in upgrades to the building, and it will have an option to purchase it from Kamen.

“This was an easy one for the trustees,” said Pamela Diamantis, chairman of the university trustees. She said the technology emphasis will give students a skill set to achieve their dreams.

Pandora holds a prominent position in the Millyard. Its clock tower is one of the site’s highest points and it is located just off the corner of Granite and Commercial streets.

Yet for years it was neglected. On Thursday, Mayor Ted Gatsas joked about trees growing from the roof before Kamen started work on the building.

UNH President Mark Huddleston said the Manchester campus is an amazing asset for the city and Merrimack Valley.

“It’s an institution with a crisp, clear vision,” he said, “and we’ve got some new real estate.”

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