February 9, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Best of us
By Jody Reese

More than a thousand people have already voted in this year’s Best of Manchester readers’ poll, choosing their favorite restaurant, date spot and whatever else makes Manchester a unique place.

Manchester as a unique and interesting place was Hippo’s impetus in starting the Best-of poll five years ago. Folks told the staff over and over that Manchester didn’t have enough going on to have its own Best-of. Now we know that Manchester has more than enough going on to support this kind of celebration.

And that’s what the Best of Manchester really is: a celebration of what makes this city different from other cities.

In the early years, the staff debated letting votes for chains count. For the first few years, we relented and let folks vote for McDonald’s, for example, for best fries based on the thinking that if people chose it then we should include it. But this year we scaled this back and decided to only include local businesses, places and people because that’s what the poll is all about.

McDonald’s might have great fries, but they are the same fries available at more than 10,000 locations around the world. Since the Best of Manchester is a celebration of what’s unique here, the staff felt that McDonald’s had to go.

The deadline for voting is Friday, Feb. 17. Please vote online and save yourself 39 cents.

Parking lot, lots
Manchester city government is in the process of trying to sell the Center of New Hampshire garage to the group that owns the Center of New Hampshire for about $2 million, though negotiations have recently bogged down.

While I don’t think it’s in the long-term interest of the city to give up this asset, I can see that it’s a reasonable option. The city-owned parking garage was built as part of the Center of New Hampshire, and the Center has a great lease deal with it, making the garage a money-loser.

However, if the sale does go through, city government should take the money it frees up with the sale of that garage and build another on or under the Middle Street Parking Lot near City Hall.

Building and running a parking lot will always be a money-loser. That’s the point, just as streets are money-losers. We build infrastructure to support the city around it. We hope the property around the garage will go up in value to sustain a growing city.

It goes without saying that property tax is the worst possible way to fund a government, but it’s what we’re stuck with and that won’t change any time soon. Given that that’s the way Manchester has to grow, it makes sense that city government do everything it can to increase the value of property in the city. In the downtown area, without question, the biggest impediment to higher rents (and thus property taxes) is the lack of parking. By building a parking garage at the Middle Street lot, the city would instantly increase property values in the Historic District, help businesses along Elm Street and encourage more office use in the area.

Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com