LIZ HITCHCOCK, owner of Bookery Manchester and developer of The Factory on Willow project, went before city aldermen last week to discuss her proposal for a purr-fect new downtown project — feline designs for two crosswalks connecting to the area known as Cat Alley.

Formally known as Dean Court, the little side street is located across the street from XO Restaurant, with the entrance next to 836 Elm St.

According to a summary provided to city aldermen, Hitchcock’s proposal looks to “spark more pride, curiosity and excitement around Cat Alley” by redesigning two crosswalks that connect with the hidden side street — on Elm St. at Manchester St., and Hampshire Lane (the back alley to Franklin Street).

According to Hitchcock, the design will be between the existing white lines of the cross walk, and it contains a repetitive pattern. A stencil will be created to allow for simple application and upkeep.

Hitchcock has agreed to pay for all art supplies needed for the project, which would be completed by artist David Hady.

City Engineer Todd Connors said the Department of Public Works has reviewed the proposal for cat crosswalks and “does not recommend the proposed design based on compliance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and difficulty with maintenance.”

“The proposed pattern will wear quickly in the wheel path of vehicles and will require annual re-painting with multiple colors to maintain,” warns Connors in a letter to aldermen.

The city already has an existing contract for decorative crosswalks that will be installed at four locations on Elm Street, Connors writes.

Last week, Connors told aldermen his department wants to work with Hitchcock to come up with a design that complies with safety regulations and alleviates maintenance concerns.

“Public Works is also a fan of public art,” said Connors.

“Things like this are just what the city needs,” said Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart.

Aldermen approved the proposal, contingent on both sides developing a plan that covers all concerns.

Manchester Proud

Last week’s scheduled “non-meeting” between Manchester Proud and the school board was canceled just hours before it was set to begin, after several board members said they would skip the session over transparency concerns.

The workshop was slated to be held at the NH Institute of Art’s French Hall on Concord Street, not at City Hall or the district offices. The session wasn’t posted as a public meeting. No agenda was posted and school board members said their clerk was not scheduled to attend, so no minutes would be kept.

The purpose of the workshop, according to a calendar item on the district website, was to allow members of Manchester Proud to share the findings of the group’s public outreach with board members.

On Thursday, school board members Rich Girard, Jimmy Lehoux, John Avard and Lisa Freeman said they would skip the workshop over transparency concerns.

On Thursday night, Manchester Proud issued a statement saying the group “looks forward to rescheduling its session with the Board of School Committee.”

“We have been eager to share our community engagement findings with the board and hold a session for members to explore the information and continue our partnership in visioning and planning for the future of our schools,” reads the statement. “In the planning for the meeting, some members of the board felt that holding a nonpublic workshop might be helpful for having candid and open discussion.”

Once a new date is secured, the information will be shared via the BOSC calendar and the Manchester Proud website, www.manchesterproud.org, officials said.

Democrats convene

Mayor Joyce Craig was in the spotlight this weekend as 19 presidential candidates descended on the Queen City to attend Saturday’s New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention at SNHU Arena. Craig served as chairman of the event.

“Manchester is a dynamic and growing city, and I’m proud we’re hosting the New Hampshire Democratic Convention,” said Craig last week. “This event is bringing thousands of people into our downtown this weekend, giving them the opportunity to enjoy our local businesses, restaurants, hotels and parks. Here in New Hampshire, we’re lucky to have access to so many presidential candidates. I encourage all the candidates running for president to make time and listen to as many Granite Staters as possible. We take our First in the Nation status very seriously, and by continuing to have open and honest discussions, we all can work to make positive change for our city, state and country.”

More endorsements

Craig’s reelection campaign picked up two endorsements last week. Teamsters Local 633, representing Manchester school district principals, directors and coordinators, along with police support staff, and airport, library and welfare department employees — endorsed Craig’s mayoral bid, along with Let America Vote, a group dedicated to “improving access to the ballot box for all Americans.”

“Teamsters Local 633 members are hard working, dedicated employees that work across our city and provide a wide array of services that our residents and businesses rely on,” said Craig in a statement. “I’m honored to have their support and I’m looking forward to continuing to work together to build a stronger Manchester.

“Let America Vote has been a leading voice in protecting access to the ballot box and I’m honored to have their support.”

Updating the master plan

From now until June 2020, city officials are conducting an ongoing planning process involving community outreach, citizen discussion groups, data collection, and analysis of existing conditions to develop a new master plan for Manchester.

“The city’s master plan is a great opportunity for residents to share their vision for the future of our city, and have the ability to make long-term impactful change,” said Craig.

A comprehensive master plan is a policy document detailing the city’s long-term vision and goals, and outlines the steps needed to achieve them. The city’s existing master plan was adopted in 2009.

The next opportunity for public input is this week’s Planapalooza, which kicks off Thursday, Sept. 12, and runs through Tuesday, Sept. 17.

According to organizers, a Planapalooza is an “intense, participatory design, and public input process where you are invited to work directly with your neighbors, fellow business owners and a multidisciplinary consulting team.”

Events are planned at the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown hotel and the Palace Theatre. A full schedule can be found at https://planmanchester.com/public-engagement.

“What’s exciting about this master plan is that we’ll be looking at mapping out improvements to our community in multiple ways,” said Craig. “By not only focusing on economic development, but also including how land use regulations can assist in the efforts to break the cycles of homelessness and addiction, we are ensuring the city of Manchester is committed to the long-term success of residents across the city.”

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at pfeely@unionleader.com.

Friday, November 01, 2019
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