November 29. 2013 10:05PM

$1.3 million offered for old Manchester police station; developer considers options

New Hampshire Union Leader

The view from Merrimack Street of the former Manchester Police Station shows the unusual architectural style from the 1970s. The real-estate agent representing the development firm considering the building is trying to determine if enough demand exists to convert the building to student housing. (UNION LEADER File)

MANCHESTER — A Massachusetts developer has put down a deposit to buy the former Manchester police station and is considering converting it into many different uses, including live-work lifestyle apartments for students and entrepreneurs, according to people familiar with the project.

On Sept. 13, the city signed an agreement that calls for selling the 38-year-old building for $1.3 million to The Grossman Companies, a Quincy-based real-estate holding and development company. The price is significantly less than the $2.1 million the city was asking.

"It's what I told people it would sell for," Mayor Ted Gatsas said Wednesday. "I told them they'd never get $2 million for it."

He said he was excited about the potential sale, but cautioned the deal still must close.

The Grossman Companies is about half-way through a 120-day period that allows the firm to investigate the property and decide whether to move forward. More time is allowed for permitting; the purchase-and-sale agreement calls for the deal to be finalized by Aug. 30, 2014, if not sooner.

The Manchester real-estate agent representing Grossman said the company is trying to determine if enough demand exists to convert the building to student housing.

If so, Michael Harrington said the building could end up housing students or even becoming a creative space where entrepreneurs could live and work.

"It's like a bunker right now," Harrington said. "You could re-skin the building and turn it into something much more hip and fun."

A short video rendition of the possible recreation is on Harrington's website — It shows a liberal use of windows, bump-outs and a glass-paneled entrance lobby.

Harrington stressed that the due diligence period, which gives the buyer time to investigate the property, is still in place, and nothing has been decided.

The building was vacated earlier this year, when police moved into a larger police station on Valley Street. The vacated steel-frame building is nearly 46,000 square feet, according to its listing. It has two elevators and 20 on-site parking spots, the listing said.

It also has 14 jail cells on its first floor, and a basement-level garage and shooting range.

The sale is being handled by Stebbins Commercial Properties. Stebbins President Michael Reed said the city must address several issues: Amoskeag Industries must relinquish any claim to the property it may have under a 19th-century deed; the city must decide if it needs to maintain a walkway between the fire station and the police station; and guy wires holding up a communications antenna are on the police station property.

Reed estimated that The Grossman Companies will have to invest $1.5 million to $2 million to remodel the building.

He said other potential uses include a restaurant and offices. The secure areas in the basement could prove attractive to a security company such as Brinks, he said.

Reed said Grossman is familiar with Manchester. Decades ago, it acquired the Daily Mirror and Harrington-Smith buildings on Hanover Street and rehabilitated them.

"I really think they have a genuine interest in improving their communities," Reed said.

The Harrington-Smith building now houses the Opera Block apartments; the Daily Mirror is an office building. The Grossman Companies eventually sold to a local property-management company.