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Manchester business owners hope to revive pedestrians-only Hanover Street project

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 19. 2013 9:20PM

MANCHESTER — A pedestrians-only pilot project on a block of Hanover Street last summer was so successful, business owners hope to bring it back again this year.

Neville Pereira, who owns two restaurants on the block, said Tuesday that business owners met last week and agreed to form an association that is already lobbying the city to approve closing of Hanover Street to traffic between Chestnut Street and Nutfield Lane. The pedestrian block last summer allowed restaurants to offer expanded outdoor seating, which was a hit with consumers in the late summer months.

"It just proved to be such an awesome event. Every big city has a street like this," Pereira said. "It's such a beautiful area. It only makes sense."

Pereira said business typically drops at downtown eateries in July and August as families leave town for summer vacation. The idea of expanding outdoor dining options was aimed at bringing in customers who were still in town to experience something a little different.

"Generally in the summer, business declines between 20 and 30 percent," Pereira said. "This kept it pretty level."

Closing the street allowed four restaurants on the block to extend outdoor seating across the entire sidewalk and leave the roadway free for pedestrian traffic. When the street is not closed, outdoor seating is limited to half of the sidewalk.

Pereira said the association hopes to bring back the pedestrian block starting the weekend of June 28. He said if it's as popular as last year, perhaps retail businesses will offer extended weekends, further boosting the downtown economy.

"It has to start somewhere," Pereira said. "Last year proved to be pretty successful."

Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long met with the group last week. He hopes to bring the issue to a committee or the full Board of Aldermen during its first meeting in June.

"We're just working out the details," Long said.

Kim Severino, who opened Kimberly's Kitchen last month, said she had no intentions of keeping her eatery open on Saturday nights until she met with the association and joined the group last week.

The small cafe is an extension of Severino's catering business — — which is now based across from the Palace Theater at 81 Hanover St.

"We were not even going to entertain the thought of opening on Saturdays, but with the street closing I think there is an opportunity for us," Severino said. "It brings some importance to this block, which I think is really cool. You see things like this in Boston and Providence all the time."

Severino loves the neighborhood feeling on Hanover and couldn't pass up the location once she saw online photos of the bare-brick interior wall and other classic features. She is considering extended hours for Saturday nights — when she's not also catering a wedding — to hopefully draw in some customers for a light bite or glass of wine or beer once her liquor license is approved.

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