Publisher's Note — Old Building Makeover

Old building makeover

By Jody Reese

Watching the high rise go up on the corner of Elm and Bridge I’m amazed at how far Manchester has come in the last six years. From the Verizon to all the new restaurants downtown, the landscape of this city has changed considerably.

This week our cover story is about how Manchester can be further improved with some basic changes or additions, sort of like improving your fall wardrobe. As the city makes its 10-year plan, there are some issues that absolutely demand attention.

The thing that most caught my eye is the building codes. Changing the building codes is one of the easiest things city government could do to help Manchester continue to grow and prosper.

As the codes now stand, renovating older buildings is extremely expensive and difficult. City government’s building codes are designed for new construction, not rehabilitation of century-old buildings. These codes actually make it cheaper to tear down historic buildings than fix them up.

Developer Richard Anagnost has been encouraging city government to replace the current building codes with ones similar to New Jersey’s, which are some of the best codes in the country for remodeling old buildings. There is little or no trade-off.

The New Jersey codes are just as safe, but they take into consideration the uniqueness of an older building. They allow for flexibility, something current codes here do too little of.

Changing the codes would not merely make life easier for developers; it would help us preserve many of Manchester’s great old buildings, instead of turning them into parking lots.

It would also lower the cost of rehabbing some of the older buildings in the city, thereby encouraging more property owners to improve them. This would be a huge help in getting the former Pandora building on Commercial Street renovated.

Beyond those code changes city government could also easily adopt a customer service model, such as PC Connection has—a program where property owners work with one permitting person from the city who helps them through the process.

Manchester city government could also use integrated permitting, so when a business gets a permit for renovations they are walked through all the other permits they need and dealt with in a reasonable way. Watching the high rise go up on the corner of Elm and Bridge I’m amazed at how far Manchester has come in the last six years. From the Verizon to all the new restaurants downtown, the landscape of this city has changed considerably.

This week our cover story is about how Manchester can be further improved with some basic changes or additions, sort of like improving your fall wardrobe. As the city makes its 10-year plan, there are some issues that absolutely demand attention.

The thing that most caught my eye is the building codes. Changing the building codes is one of the easiest things city government could do to help Manchester continue to grow and prosper.

As the codes now stand, renovating older buildings is extremely expensive and difficult. City government’s building codes are designed for new construction, not rehabilitation of century-old buildings. These codes actually make it cheaper to tear down historic buildings than fix them up.

Developer Richard Anagnost has been encouraging city government to replace the current building codes with ones similar to New Jersey’s, which are some of the best codes in the country for remodeling old buildings. There is little or no trade-off.

The New Jersey codes are just as safe, but they take into consideration the uniqueness of an older building. They allow for flexibility, something current codes here do too little of.

Changing the codes would not merely make life easier for developers; it would help us preserve many of Manchester’s great old buildings, instead of turning them into parking lots.

It would also lower the cost of rehabbing some of the older buildings in the city, thereby encouraging more property owners to improve them. This would be a huge help in getting the former Pandora building on Commercial Street renovated.

Beyond those code changes city government could also easily adopt a customer service model, such as PC Connection has—a program where property owners work with one permitting person from the city who helps them through the process.

Manchester city government could also use integrated permitting, so when a business gets a permit for renovations they are walked through all the other permits they need and dealt with in a reasonable way.

—Jody Reese

 
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