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Saigon Asian Market deal in Manchester may be scuttled

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 01. 2014 9:38PM
A Zoning Board of Adjustment decision is threatening the sale of the Employment Security building on Hanover Street in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — The Saigon Asian Market, forced by its landlord to leave its south Manchester location last summer, emerged the high bidder to buy the current unemployment office building for sale on Hanover Street.

But a recent negative decision by the Zoning Board of Adjustment is threatening to scuttle the deal.

Under state law, the city of Manchester also faces a Monday deadline on whether to match the roughly $1.5 million bid to buy the property. Mayor Ted Gatsas said he would love for the city to get the property for free as a donation from the state to use for a city school, perhaps for pre-schoolers.

Also at stake is about $34,000 in yearly local property taxes if the property shifts into private hands.

“There’s a lot of moving pieces,” said Richard Lavers, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Employment Security.

The reason for the sale is because the department plans to consolidate four offices under one roof on the State Hospital campus in Concord, with plans to transfer 35 Manchester workers and leave 20 to run the local unemployment office at a new location, he said.

But plans could be delayed if the state needs to put the building at 300 Hanover St. back on the market.

The high bidder, Thanh Ho, said he is appealing the ZBA decision.

“The building is good, the location is good, the parking looks good,” Ho said Wednesday.

He wants to re-establish his family’s Saigon Asian Market in Manchester. The market spent 11 years on South Maple Street until its landlord forced it to close in August 2013.

“There are no other people who carry the stuff we do,” said Ho, whose family operates a similar store in Nashua.

Max Sink, deputy director in charge of building regulations for Manchester, said Ho has 30 days to ask for a rehearing of the April 15 ZBA decision. The board said no to two variance requests: for an oversize sign and to operate a loading area too close to houses. The board also rejected a request for a special exception to operate a store larger than 8,000 square feet, he said.

Ho said he planned to operate a market in about 13,000 square feet.

Last fall, the state put up for sale two Manchester buildings: the local unemployment office at 300 Hanover St. and the building next door, at 298 Hanover St., where the appeals unit works.

“Our local office will be obviously staying in Manchester,” Lavers said.

The state also put out a public appeal asking to lease 10,000 square feet of space to relocate the unemployment office. The request produced two offers, neither of which officials deemed suitable, he said.

The state will soon put out a similar request again. It could be possible that whoever buys the 300 Hanover St. building could lease a portion of it back to the state, he said.

Last January, the state received three offers for 300 Hanover St., selecting Ho and negotiating a purchase and sale agreement.

Ho offered $1,510,100.

“The deal was contingent on getting the necessary relief to conduct an Asian food market on the property,” Lavers said.

The 300 Hanover St. building offers 22,000 square feet and 55 surface parking spots, but the department needs only 10,000 square feet. The adjacent building offers 8,000 square feet. A parking lot south of Hanover Street will be sold separately, Lavers said.

Lavers said the property was appraised for $1.5 million, the asking price. Three bidders pushed the price higher.

The other bidders were New Hampshire Catholic Charities at $1.25 million and the Gospel Baptist Church in Manchester at $750,000.

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