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Republican Parkade Development Plan Calls for $15.25 Million Worth of Sports Complexes

Republican candidates for the Board of Directors unveiled a surprising proposal to develop the former Broad Street Parkade property into a series of sports complexes Wednesday.

It’s been a quiet election season thus far in town, but things might have picked up steam Wednesday as Republican candidates for the Board of Directors unveiled what they termed a “Jobs Redevelopment Plan” that hinges around the creation of a new Economic Development Agency in town and the private development of the former into a series of sports complexes that could cost more than $15 million.

The six-part plan, which Republicans unveiled at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, would see:

  1. The creation of a new Economic Development Agency appointed by the Board of Directors.
  2. The implementation of the “Republican Agenda of 2007,” when the party last controlled the Board of Directors, to hire a full-time Business Advocate who would report directly to the General Manager.
  3. A requirement that the Business Advocate also present a monthly in-person report to the Board of Directors on efforts to attract new businesses to town.
  4. A requirement that a new Economic Revitalization Plan be submitted to the Board of Directors by March 13, 2012.
  5. A partnership between Manchester High School, Howell Cheney Technical High School, Manchester Community College and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce to create job shadows, internships, apprenticeships and job-training programs in town.
  6. And the pursuit of a “public/private partnership” to develop an athletic complex and recreational facilities at the town-owned Broad Street Parkade property that would include an indoor running track, a hockey rink and a pool and exercise areas.

It is the parkade development component, which could carry a price tag of more than $15 million at full build out, that will likely prove the most controversial aspect of the Republicans’ proposal.

Under the plan, which Republicans stressed would be entirely financed through private developers and would result in new tax money for the town, the 19-acre parkade property, which the town purchased earlier this year for $1.85 million, would be sold off to a private developer or developers who were committed to realizing the Republicans goal of a 100,000-square foot sports bubble that would include an indoor running track, batting cages, and multiple soccer, volleyball and basketball courts; a 37,500-square foot hockey rink is also planned for the site; along with a two-story 28,900-square foot brick building that could house daycare facilities, offices, an exercise area and an indoor pool; a 6,300-square foot commercial office building is also called for under the proposal.

Based on designs provided by the Russell & Dawson Architecture and Engineering firm, the buildings would be constructed to resemble the Cheney Mills buildings and Clock Tower in the downtown area, and would “develop a public private partnership to develop the parkade into an athletic center bringing revenue into town coffers, providing new job growth, establishing multiple turf fields, an indoor track, ball courts, a gym and…community pool in a more cost effective and efficient manner that would provide a facility where our senior high school students could graduate on home turf.” Detailed sketches of the plan are attached as a PDF to this article.

Cheri Pelletier, a Republican member of the Board of Directors running for re-election who was at the press conference to unveil the proposal, said the plan came about because as she and other Republican candidates were campaigning door-to-door they kept hearing the same thing from local residents: that they did not want to see the parkade used to develop more housing in town.

“The whole concept of putting housing down there has not been flying with our residents when we talk to them,” she said. “…This idea keeps coming up from our community. As candidates and elected officials, we keep hearing it.”

In September of 2009, the Board of Directors adopted a plan that called for amendments to the area's zoning regulations to allow for residential and mixed-use development of the property, as well as significant infrastructure renovations to the Broad Street area to expand the streetscape for pedestrians and beautify the area by connecting it to Bigelow Brook and Center Springs Park.

In November of 2009, voters approved a referendum question that gave the town the authority to spend up to $8 million on revitalization efforts in the area, including the ability to acquire property. Those plans have been slowly moving forward since, , along with , and the town is currently in the process of soliciting contractors to carry out the demolition of the buildings on site. There is also a $12 million dollar referendum question on the ballot this Election Day, Nov. 8 that includes funding for the and the Broad Street Redevelopment plan.

Timothy Devanney, who serves as chairman of the Manchester Redevelopment Agency, who the Board of Directors appointed with coming up with a plan to redevelop the Broad Street area, said he was shown the Republicans’ proposal yesterday and that his first reaction was one of surprise.

“My first thing was, ‘Whoa, this was a different plan than what we had,” Devanney said. “It’s totally different from where we were heading, that’s for sure.”

Devanney said he had concerns that the Republicans’ proposal was “somewhat one dimensional” and might not be the best use for the property.

“The ‘Live, Work and Play’ thing, that’s kind of the theme that we’ve adopted and gone with,” he said. “This is a ‘play, play, and play some more.’”

Mark Tweedie, another Republican member of the Board of Directors who is running for re-election and attended the press conference, said the point of the proposal was to “think big” and give residents another option for development of the parkade property.

“Anything in this plan can be morphed or changed or not even occur,” Tweedie said. “But the point is to let people see it and see if they have an interest in it.”

Republicans said they had spoken to potential developers who have expressed interest in the proposal. 

Stephen Gates, a Democratic who is running for a spot on the Board of Directors this November and who has partnered with Manchester High School Track Coach Thayer Redman and approached both the Board of Directors and the Manchester Redevelopment Agency about , said by email Wednesday afternoon that he was “disappointed that Republican leadership chose to invent an election issue rather than continuing to support the bipartisan work of the Redevelopment Agency.”

“My hope is that indoor athletics will get fair consideration by the RDA as the Broad Street plans unfold,” Gates continued.

General Manager Scott Shanley declined to discuss the proposal Wednesday afternoon, because he said he did not want to get involved in political issues among the board or potential future members, but noted that the proposal “isn’t the direction that the Board of Directors unanimously provided for before.”

Devanney said the Redevelopment Agency would likely discuss the Republicans’ proposal at its next meeting, but that he was disappointed that the plan was unveiled to the public so quickly and two weeks before an election.

“My first response is I wish it hadn’t got political,” he said. “We’ve tried so hard to not let this thing get political, now it’s an election time and all of a sudden a plan surfaces?”

Scott Aiken October 27, 2011 at 01:30 AM
How about 15 Million dollars of long overdue improvements of Washington, Nathan Hale and Verplank Elementary schools?
M. Troy October 27, 2011 at 02:12 AM
Are you people on drugs? A Sports complex with this economy , It's bad enough that we got this useless parcell that is going to cost millions just to clean let alone develop. WE HAVE PLENTY OF SITES IN MANCHESTER THAT NEED THIS MONEY THAT ALREADY EXIST. i AM SO FAR AGAINST THIS . Taxes money for the people that need it. And how about that blight thing. I can walk around this town now and see nothing but blight just in my neighborhood alone we have 5 to 6 house that are inhabited but filthy outside. Putting funds into the Parkade was way to much for Manchester now. Clean and fix existing sites. We have so many buildings that are just sitting there and rotting it's ridiculous. Spend money trying to bring in jobs for the working people not just jobs for people that are involved in sports. Be realistic spend money where we need it promoting Manchester as a great place to start a business.
David Moran (Editor) October 27, 2011 at 03:16 AM
M. Troy, The Republican proposal doesn't call for the town putting any money into the development. Instead, it relies on enticing private developers to purchase the property, and then fork over the money to develop it, and there would be some sort of deal worked out about uses of the complexes for town residents. But, you do raise an interesting point about whether any developer/developers would be willing to commit $15-plus million to build sports complexes in this economic climate. And how many jobs the development, if built, would produce is also still a debatable issue. Dave M.
Mike Pohl October 27, 2011 at 10:53 AM
The Redevelopment Agency has among its membership Manchester's best and brightest, and to turn the parkade into a political issue is irresponsible and counterproductive to what the men and women of the RDA have been working on for over two years.
Matthew Galligan October 27, 2011 at 12:02 PM
If Mr. Pohl believes it's counterproductive to offer additional ideas for parkade redevelopment, then perhaps that explains why his caucus has offered no real solutions to the most glaring decay at the heart of our town. It's unfortunate that he feels we shouldn't attack the inactivity at the Parkade with an "all hands on deck approach." The Republicans value the work the RDA has put into the Parkade thus far. Perhaps Mr. Pohl can explain why offering even more options is somehow to the detriment of the town. I find it sad that they'll continue to drag their feet on the Parkade and will refuse to participate in the revitalization of that area. The RDA has worked tirelessly for over 2 years on this, let's give them even more ammunition to attack the blight. It's hardly irresponsible to offer alternatives to vacant properties that have been of no use for so long.
Manchester Review Blog, Host: Jack Peak October 27, 2011 at 03:49 PM
A Sports Complex for the Parkade? Here’s a creative idea for the Redevelopment Commission to consider. The Commission has done some great work but appears to be stalled in attracting a developer for the mixed use residential/ commercial complex they envision. What is the harm in looking at this? Although it was immediately dismissed as a political move by the Democrat Chairman it’s a serious idea worthy of serious consideration. After all, the Chairman did say recently : “We believe that there isn't a Democratic or Republican way to operate the Library, redevelop Broad Street.” …”each idea was heard and decided upon based on merit, not who proposed it.” Huh? To dismiss it as a political move is counter productive. How about: “That’s an interesting idea. Let’s look at it.” A Democrat candidate has been promoting the idea of an indoor track. Here’s chance to work together in a bi partisan fashion!
Gary Benson October 27, 2011 at 03:49 PM
WOW! When I first heard of this my reaction was... WHAT? But having given it thought, maybe this is a good idea. There would be much to be worked out but this is something that can happen. I like this for several reasons. Private development requires no additional tax money. Manchester does not need any more rental housing than that which already exists or is in the planning stages...period! Manchester does not need anymore retail space than that which already exists. Don't we have enough competitors and vacant spaces already? The property would generate tax revenue without causing additional burdens on our apparently over burdened school system. Further, it would assist the school systems with existing problems such as that being experienced by the track team. This is a PLUS for our youth and takes nothing away! I'm thinking that all the existing businesses in what I would call the "down town" area, (say a one mile circle with the center being the Town Hall), would greatly benefit from the draw of such a complex year around. With Jobs on everyones mind, there would be plenty in the building stages and certainly jobs when completed. There is also the factor of new business coming into the area as a result of such an undertaking.
Gary Benson October 27, 2011 at 03:52 PM
CONTINUED: I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tim Devanney and I appreciate the efforts of the Redevelopment Agency to date. I would urge them to give this idea very serious consideration. I share the thoughts and concerns expressed my Scott Aiken and M. Troy but I fail to see a monetary connection to this matter. I also agree that it's a shame if this becomes a "political issue" as the citizens of Manchester are the ones to benefit from this and political haggling should be put aside. My hope is that, elections aside, Matt & Mike can come together on this and address it in a way that we all benefit.
M. Troy October 27, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Gary I have a lot to say on this but I did make a mistake as where the moneys was to come from and I apologize. But you had a comment in your post as to we have enough renters. I am 57 I have rented in Manchester for my life. Not because I wanted to but it was the way things turned out. Your comment seemed to put down, demean renters as lower type than yourself. You probably did not mean it that way but that's the way it comes across. I will ask all the renters I know to read this and I believe that is what comes across. Now as for the parkade there are so many things we can do with this property and a Sports Complex is not one I believe. Years ago I brought this up to some board members and was laughed at. But that's when Stop&Shop was still paying rent to monopolize the area.
Gary Benson October 28, 2011 at 03:43 AM
M. Troy my comment about rental housing was not intended as a "put down" in any way and I'm sorry if you took it that way. There are many people renting today that have been in Manchester all their lives. There is also a very large portion of renters who are transit and move frequently. This frequent movement results in disruption in school class rooms, (ask a teacher), and does not create good neighborhood relationships. I'm a few years older than you and have had the good fortune to be able to buy a home but I also rented for a good number of years. In my opinion, and I certainly respect yours, a more densely populated Manchester is not what we need. I'm not posting to offend anyone. I simply wish to express my self and offer an opinion. Not everyone will agree, but that's OK. It WILL generate a conversation and that's what is important. The fact that you are repsonding to articles such as this shows you are a concerned citizen and I appreciate that. I wish there were more!

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