A new life for an old bowling alley?

MANCHESTER - The building that formerly housed the bowling alley on Depot Street, behind the Manchester Shopping Plaza, was part of the buildings and land that was purchased by Crosspoint Associates in early July.

Although tucked behind the main part of the shopping center and largely out-of-sight, the slightly more than 10,000 square-foot building may see some renewed interest. The building has seen several potential buyers kick its proverbial tires since the bowling alley closed its doors in mid-1980s.

In July 1999, Adam Gordon, owner of the Manchester Shopping Plaza at the time, was denied the permitting to build a five-screen movie theater that would have held 950 seats. The theater would have also contained a pub, serving alcohol and food.

The denial was due to "insufficient demonstration of safe and adequate pedestrian and vehicular circulation... and insufficient demonstration of parking to serve all land uses on site."

The building continued to sit unused into 2002, when Aubuchon Hardware applied for a change of use permit to use about 7,000 square-feet of it for retailing.

"They did some work, but they ultimately decided to abandon [the project]," said Zoning Administrator Lee Krohn. The store ended up moving into its current location on Depot Street, instead.

The building was also the focal point of a proposed hotel that was under consideration briefly in 2005, but that project never came to fruition either.

The newest phase of the building came on July 1 when Crosspoint Associates filed the official paperwork with the Town for the purchase of the building, in addition to the adjacent Manchester Shopping Center, which occupies about 10 acres. Both sets of buildings cost Crosspoint $6.8 million.

"It's a good asset to have," said Crosspoint Associates Director of Development Kerry McCormack of the building. "We want to make it useful and vibrant."

McCormack explained that they do not currently have a plan for the building, but they are throwing ideas around.

"I met with Berta Maginniss [Executive Director at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce] and she got me in touch with Bill Laberge [chairman of the Riverwalk Taskforce]. We would like to incorporate with the Riverwalk... there have been many ideas tossed around."

Laberge said that they are planning an open house for the Riverwalk project in September, when they will be inviting adjoining property owners and members of the community to come discuss the project; Crosspoint has been invited and, according to Laberge, they are interested in attending.

"We are going to be making a pedestrian connection between Main Street and the plaza," Laberge said, "it could be the heart of town right there."

Before anything can be settled on, however, he explained that there needs to be a structural analysis to determine the state of the building.

"We need to plan on what to do in order to know how to use the building... what we can keep and what we need to remove or fix." he said. "I'm amazed it's still standing," Laberge said. "It's sitting there rotting... but the foundation is still there, it's usable."

Laberge said that the ideas that he shared with Crosspoint were well received and they both look forward to working to find a use that could benefit the Town and the Riverwalk project.

"We had one idea to take everyone... and paint a big mural [on the building]," Laberge said. "They didn't shoot it down... so who knows."


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