A Work In Progress
By Jody Reese
Manchester is barely two months away from watching an opening pitch in its very own brand-new baseball stadium.
This, added to the successful Verizon Wireless Arena, promises to give the city a sports infrastructure second-to-none in northern New England. All we need now is a NASCAR-level race track and we’ll have everything we need to be a successful 21st-century style Destination City, right?
Well, not quite. Building stadiums and arenas is only one part of making Manchester a memorable place. Much more will be required if we’re going to the make the most of our new long-term assets. So even before the first pitch is thrown in the new stadium, let’s see how the city is doing on other scores.
Business diversity: Is downtown worth walking around? Here Manchester needs a lot more work. We need more specialty shops, more locally owned restaurants and more housing. Also, a healthy city center is well-lit and clean and plowed well in the winter. It’s also open on Sundays. Manchester has none of these.
Cultural health: Once folks have come to Manchester, is there enough going on to draw them back? Entertainment isn’t just big events at the Verizon — it’s the entire arts community, from the bars and clubs on Elm Street to the latest opening at the Currier Museum. However, we continue to suffer a “second city” mentality, where a lot of people think you still must go to Boston to get world-class art and music and theater. You don’t. It’s here, but we need to promote it more.
No place like home: Revitalized cities inevitably generate interest from people who’d prefer downtown life as an alternative to the American-suburban-home dream. More than anything else, these new residents form the core of a truly revitalized city. Manchester hasn’t had many options for these people. But that will soon change with several new projects to add modern living space to the city’s central core — most notably, the Apartments at Manchester Place, which will greatly increase the amount of housing stock available downtown.
All this adds up to a city that still remains more potential than reality. Let’s keep in mind that even after the opening pitch is thrown, there’s still a lot of work to be done to make this place a Destination City. Nonetheless, we are clearly moving in the right direction.
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