Share your ideas on improving downtown Manchester

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Feb. 14, 2013
Mark Pelligrini, director of Planning and Economic Development, points out the Purnell Place parking lot with Tana Parseliti, manager of the Downtown Manchester Special Services District. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.
Mark Pelligrini, director of Planning and Economic Development, points out the Purnell Place parking lot with Tana Parseliti, manager of the Downtown Manchester Special Services District. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.

Do you work in downtown Manchester, or do you visit Main Street for shopping, dining or recreation? If you have ever had a good idea on how to make this area better, now is your chance to be heard. In a collaborative effort between the town of Manchester Department of Planning and Economic Development and the Downtown Manchester Special Services District, members of the public are being asked to offer their insights and opinions on how to make downtown Manchester a more vibrant place to work, shop and enjoy.

“The intent of this is to invite people to share any ideas they have about how the public spaces in the downtown can be made more vibrant, more attractive, more pedestrian-friendly,” said Tana Parseliti, manager of the Downtown Manchester Special Services District. Input is welcomed on a broad range of subjects, such as sidewalks, parking lots, parks, street furnishing and signage.

“We want to reach out very broadly to the users – users being the people that work down here, that own businesses, but also the residents and customers of downtown,” Parseliti said. “We want people to enjoy coming to the downtown, and because they use it, they may have very good ideas to share.”

One focus going forward will be how to make Main Street a more walkable place. “We've had a couple studies in the past year that have looked at ways that we can make it pedestrian-friendly,” Parseliti said.

Any effort to make the area more pedestrian-friendly will include rethinking the parking lots available to visitors. “Our parking lots – particularly the Purnell Place parking lot – are aging and in need of improvement,” Parseliti said. Improving parking lots involves both an engineering/architectural aspect as well as a user aspect, she said. “I think how we interact with parking in the downtown is important. Both the town and the District recognize that it needs to be addressed.”

Others possible conversation items are the trees along Main Street. Many are getting older and have outgrown their planters. Should they be removed? Should more be added? These are questions on which Parseliti would like input.

The role of arts in relation to the pedestrian experience in the downtown area is another area Parseliti would like to explore. “There's been such a renewed interest in arts in the downtown, and the use of arts as a revitalizing tool,” she said. “Imagine Main Street has really become very active in bringing more arts to the downtown.”

To receive input in person, the Department of Planning and Economic Development and the Downtown Manchester Special Services District invited anyone with suggestions to visit the second floor above MCC on Main, at 903 Main St., to share their ideas over coffee. Mark Pelligrini, director of Planning and Economic Development, who approached Parseliti with the idea, was pleased with the amount of input they received. One side of the room was covered with notes with things people wanted in town.

“A lot of people stuck up ideas on what kind of businesses they want to see in town,” said Pelligrini. “Ice cream, coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants. Entertainment things, like music and jazz, places to perform.” Other ideas included bike racks, benches, street art, wayfaring signs, murals and “pop-up parks.” In the pop-up park concept, under-utilized areas, such as no-parking zones, can be converted to temporary recreation areas. With a platform or a carpet of artificial turf, a sitting area can be created, furnished with benches, chairs, tables for chess, and perhaps planters with trees for shade. “And when the weather gets bad, you just take it away,” Pelligrini said.

Other suggestions included a conference center, a scrapbooking center, wireless cafes, dance clubs, more law offices and non-chain restaurants. With the amount of suggestions brought to Pelligrini and Parseliti's attention, it is clear that many in the community have an interest in the downtown area, and want it to grow. This contrasts with another perception in town that believes Main Street has lost its edge. Parseliti strongly begs to differ.

“Our downtown area has certainly grown in vibrancy over the last year, with the addition of the Imagine Main Street enthusiasm,” she said. “Their kick-off event, Strollin' on Main last June, had well over a thousand people strolling on Main. Each month we've had a very nice contingent of folks who have either come back to the Main Street they're familiar with, or new people who have discovered our Main Street.”

“If you look at the number of restaurants on Main Street, you can see we have a very strong restaurant row,” she said, noting that these businesses draw in clients for early breakfast all the way to late-night drinks. “Even 10 years ago, you did not see the activity on Main Street that you see now.”

“The vibrancy is there – we want to enhance it, we want to grow it,” she said. “We're asking people to share with us ways downtown can be made physically more attractive to them.”

Suggestions to improve downtown Manchester are still welcome. To contact Parseliti, call 860-645-2101. To contact Pelligrini, call 860-647-3044.


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