MANCHESTER — A company owned by inventor Dean Kamen plans to buy a Millyard building currently housing the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, which in turn would lease additional space at Kamen’s Pandora building down the street.
University System of New Hampshire trustees have approved both moves as well as up to $8 million in funds to build out the space for classrooms and for other student uses. Students could move into the new Pandora space next year.
The deal, if inked, would provide 17,000 more square feet of space to the university with an option for another 20,000 square feet. The amount of parking also would more than double, according to the university.
Interim Dean Michael Hickey on Wednesday called the move “maybe a final opportunity to consolidate our campus” near one of the city’s most visible intersections at Granite and Commercial streets.
A potential snag for the deal is the city holds a right of first offer on the UNH property, meaning it is first in line to buy the building if it chooses. An aldermanic committee the week of July 21 is expected to discuss a request to waive that right to allow the sale to proceed.
Mayor Ted Gatsas said a UNH building sale would bring more than $50,000 in tax revenues yearly.
“The good point of this deal is we get that very good mill back on the tax roll,” Gatsas said.
Downtown Alderman Pat Long, who heads the committee that will discuss the waiver issue, said the aldermen only learned of the proposal several days ago. Personally, he said, “I don’t believe the city should buy it and sit on it.”A Kamen spokesman at his company, DEKA Research & Development Corp. at 340 Commercial St., didn’t immediately respond to phone and e-mail inquiries Wednesday.
“My understanding is DEKA needs room to expand its corporate headquarters,” Hickey said. “This building is adjacent to their headquarter facility and they are very much in need of expanding their business.”
The university negotiated a long-term lease with an initial seven-year period and renewal options.
The lease will cost the university $1.6 million a year, including rent it already pays for space there. The university building carries an appraised value of $3.47 million, Hickey said.
“These numbers are subject to final negotiations,” he said.
The city lists its assessed value at $3.76 million.
He said the university has about 65,000 square feet of built-out space at 400 Commercial St. and another 30,000 square feet it now rents at Pandora on the first and second floors, for a total of 95,000 square feet.
The deal would consolidate the campus at Pandora with 112,000 square feet by occupying the first five floors. The sixth floor is reserved for future university use.
“We need more welcoming spaces, so our students, who are largely commuter students ... have a comfortable place to study and wait for classes and have a bit to eat before their classes,” Hickey said.UNH at Manchester has the full-time equivalent of 800 students and expects to grow by 200 over the next four years, Hickey said.
The Cotton restaurant, which is part of the 400 Commercial St. property, “has a long-term lease that would not be affected,” Hickey said.