MANCHESTER — An announcement on a new tenant for the long-vacant former site of Lowe's Home Improvement could come as soon as the end of next week, but the identity of the new occupant remains a mystery.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas said Friday that while he isn't ready to reveal who the new tenant at 707 Huse Road, located just off South Willow Street and near the Olive Garden restaurant, expects to do so in "in a few days."
"I don't want to jump the gun," said Gatsas. "But the news is we have someone, the paperwork isn't completed but it's getting there. That's why I don't want to make an announcement today. Ask me again in a week, and hopefully it's a different story."
Gatsas would not comment on whether the new tenant was a retail operation, but he did reveal that it is a company relocating from a current site in the city. The company hopes to be open in the new location by early November.
"They have 85 employees, and I'm told after the move they are looking to expand to 120," said Gatsas.
Gatsas also said the new tenant would occupy the entire former Lowe's site and has no plans to subdivide the property.
The single-story Lowe's store was built three years ago. The Lowe's lot is 11.75 acres, with a gross building area of 263,722 square feet, or 40 percent more space than is needed for a 188,000-square-foot Supercenter that Walmart wants to build at nearby 725 Gold St. Opponents of the Gold Street plans have pointed to the Lowe's site as a far more suitable location for the retail giant.
A request for comment on any potential interest in the site made to Walmart media relations was not returned Friday.
The closing of three New Hampshire Lowe's stores was announced in late 2011 as part of a corporate restructuring that saw 20 stores close nationwide, and layoffs affecting about 1,950 employees. New Hampshire was the hardest hit: No other state experienced more than two store closures. The Manchester and Hooksett stores opened in October 2008. The Claremont store opened in May 2010.
The Hooksett site, located on Route 3A, will soon feature a 149,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops outlet store, which could create as many as 300 new jobs. Officials in Claremont confirmed Friday that the vacant Lowe's store on Washington Street remains empty.
Because Lowe's was leasing the Huse Road site, there was less pressure to fill the empty store, but Gatsas was pleased a tenant will soon occupy the address.
"You would always rather see a space like that filled," said Gatsas. "It's a good location, and the businesses already in that area will only benefit from a company with 85 employees, and looking to grow, going in there. It's good to be able to say we are finally going to fill that space."
When asked about the vacant property that will be left behind when the company in question relocates, Gatsas didn't sound worried about finding a tenant to fill that spot.
"Once we announce the company at the Lowe's site, it will all make sense," said Gatsas. "All the pieces of the puzzle will start to fall into place."