One jump closer
by Jody Reese
This week Manchester cleared another hurdle on its road to revitalization with the opening of the yet-to-be-named ballpark. The adjacent hotel and condominium development are getting underway.
Itís easy to forget that only a few years ago this would have seemed like a April Foolís Day joke. So how did this happen, and how can we make sure that it continues?
For starters, Manchester is a vibrant city with a large business community and residents with real community pride. Manchester residents were and are hungry for a city with a lot to offer.
In the late 1990s, when rents started to climb in Massachusetts, many companies moved up the Interstate to the millyard. The airport made it cheap and easy to get in and out of the city. These companies brought more people into Manchester. Property values here started to rise. This gave many local investors and property owners equity, which allowed them to rehab buildings. The city stepped up with community development block grants.
Meanwhile, more people put their money in real estate after Wall Street returns slowed following the tech bubble burst. That investment prompted many to take a second look at Manchester. Small retail businesses opened, restaurants opened, supermarkets opened and chains opened, pushing up property values and rents. The result is a business environment that makes investment in Manchester a good deal.
Mayors Robert Baines and Raymond Wieczorek both deserve credit for pushing public investment in the form of the Verizon Arena, the purchase of the JacPac property and the baseball stadium.
Like any growth, however, there is always the chance that it will flop. The stock market improves and money flows back there while interest rates climb, property values drop, equity dries up and suddenly Manchester isnít such a good deal.
There is little that city government, or any of us, can do about these economic conditions. However, we can make Manchester more business- and resident-friendly so, if and when the market conditions donít favor development, weíre able to buck the trend.
For example, city government could do away with odd-even winter parking, make it easier to get city approval for building permits, clean the streets after the snow melts and improve parks. It should look at everything it does from the perspective of how can we make it more enjoyable to live and do business in the Queen City.
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