Publisher's Note — Private Places

By Jody Reese

Our city government  gets a lot of attention — and rightly so — for working to make downtown a better place to live, shop and spend time. However, seldom do the private developers — who get no federal, state or city funds to complete their projects — get that same regard, and they should. The people who are putting millions into rehabbing buildings downtown live in the area and are driving our growth as much as the city government is.

In 2002, when the six-story building at the northeast corner of Merrimack and Elm streets burned, many wondered what would happen to the building. Owner Bernard Gasser said he was going to rebuild and, almost three years later, the building is taking shape. A new sports bar leased the ground floor, the second floor will be office space and the third through sixth floors will be large one-bedroom apartments. Gasser has taken the time and money to restore many of the building’s historic features.

At the corner of Pine and Hanover streets, CR Sparks owner Charles Rolecek is renovating a building, putting a steakhouse on the first floor with office space on the second and third. Like Gasser, Rolecek is financing the multi-million dollar project without public funds. His investment should improve the neighborhood around that building.

Ben Gamache has done the same thing with the old Manchester Music building on Lowell Street across from the Red Arrow. Once he found the turn-of-the-century arched windows, Gamache researched the building through the Manchester Historic Association to make sure he restored it accurately. Tenants for that building now include a bridal store and restaurant.

There is a long list of people who have used their own money to rehab buildings downtown, including Paul Smith, the Tenn family, Dick Anagnost, Stephen Talarico, the Barrett family, Norris Viviers, Shane Brady and Arthur Sullivan. It’s telling that all of the downtown investors live in the area. In many cases these buildings mean more to them than just a return on investment.

That’s not to say these folks invest  millions of dollars out of the goodness of their hearts; obviously they do not. They intend to earn a return. These people see that money can be made in Manchester, while the large corporations can’t picture that, yet. Their confidence in Manchester, as much as the city’s civic center, ballpark and purchase of the Jac Pac property, has encouraged people to live, shop and spend time downtown.

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH