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Parking garage, metal flag to alter Queen City skyline

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 16. 2017 10:31PM
An artist's rendering shows a proposed $50 million parking garage adjacent to Langer Place in Manchester's Millyard. (COURTESY)

MANCHESTER - By late 2019, people driving on Interstate 293 past the Millyard could see a large metal American flag - inspired by an iconic 1914 photo - covering a parking garage.

The six-story garage, which Southern New Hampshire University plans to lease, also would be the first major building to rise in the Millyard in more than a century.

Traffic from the 1,700-spot garage could overwhelm nearby intersections during rush hour by 2030 - prompting a suggestion that the city explore the feasibility of creating an alternate route to reach Elm Street from South Commercial Street, perhaps over the railroad tracks.

SNHU also plans to lease the entire Langer Place mill adjacent to the parking garage site, saying in November that it expects to add 500 jobs over a period of years.

"At our current pace of hiring, we anticipate adding roughly 200 to 300 new jobs over the course of the next few years," Libby May, a SNHU spokesman, said last week.

Plans call for the roughly $50 million parking garage to be built between the mill building and Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, where the New Hampshire Fisher Cats play.

The western side of the garage facing the Merrimack River will feature an American flag made of perforated aluminum and will replicate a 1914 photo taken of assembled workers with a 95-by-50-foot flag hanging on the building where it had been made.

That image has appeared in national ad campaigns and in the title sequence for the PBS series "The American Experience." The new garage display also will include images of people's silhouettes at the bottom.

"That was one of the selling points for it, kind of the unifying thing of the old Millyard area," said Kevin McCue, chairman of the city's Heritage Commission. The commission's approval is needed in order for any proposed changes to architectural exteriors in the Millyard to be made.

The eastern and southern sides will be brick while the northern front will feature concrete panels with some brick used at the pedestrian level.

McCue confirmed that John Clayton, executive director of the Manchester Historic Association, came up with the flag idea for the garage.

"If you can put any image on there, why not pick an image of what's indicative of the Millyard's history?" Clayton said.

The Heritage Commission has given its initial approval to the flag design but will need to approve an updated version with new "75" signage to reflect the Langer building's recent address change to 75 S. Commercial St., according to Jonathan Golden, a senior planner with the city.

"I think it's going to be seen as moving forward, a step in the future while honoring the past with the rest of the building," Golden said.

The commission also needs to approve an elevated walkway connecting the Langer building and the garage, he said.

The garage would give SNHU the capacity to provide parking for 1,300 employees at its College of Online and Continuing Education at 33 S. Commercial St.

It also would give the university the option to relocate 350 employees from 1230 Elm St., discontinue the use of 15 remote parking areas now used throughout the city, eliminate a shuttle bus system serving those remote areas and accommodate SNHU's long-range employment growth, according to paperwork filed with the city.

SNHU's May said "we are exploring all options and no decisions have been made at this time."

May said the university will honor its lease agreement at 1230 Elm St., which runs through 2021.

"Over the next few years, we will continue to evaluate and make decisions based on the needs of the university and our employees," May said.

The developer's traffic study said some intersections along Granite Street could be filled beyond their capacity by 2030 and suggested "the city may also wish to explore the feasibility of obtaining a future secondary access to Elm Street from South Commercial Street via a new railroad crossing."

Peter Flotz, whose company is buying the Langer property, couldn't be reached for comment last week.

Flotz last month said he planned to break ground in April for the parking garage, expected to open by October 2019. He said he also plans to break ground for a hotel and 254-space parking garage at North Commercial and Spring streets in May, predicted to open in spring 2020.

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