Spring Fever

Some will shake their heads about too many empty storefronts and the arrival of even more national brand enterprises like Subway, Starbucks and now, possibly, the Hampton Inn, but it will come as no surprise to regular readers of this page that from here, our verdict on that is good, good and more good.

We can also add to that list the soon-to-be-opened Marble Mill, another retail emporium rising on the site of the former Sirloin Saloon, along with the new hotel that will be replacing the former Village Country Inn. When the Marble Mill opens, a few months from now, it will add a few more businesses to the already rich retail mix of the town, and help draw more visitors and their dollars here. We realize there are many of you who regard all of that as a decidedly mixed blessing, but from here, that translates into more job opportunities, more tax revenue and more business potential across the board.

Somebody clearly knows something about the amount of potential business that may not have been clear to many of us not so long ago, but when two new hotel projects offering more than 170 new rooms announce plans to open for operations by next year, that sounds like a vote of confidence in the community and the opportunities present in the area. We should be glad developers want to rehabilitate to once grand Village Country Inn with a new lodging business. We should also be glad that the group which had hoped to bring a Hampton Inn and Suites to the same site, but were rebuffed, didn't give up and are back with a proposal to construct one on a location that might well serve them even better. The area around High Ridge Plaza has long been a forlorn place of a thinly used parking lot and empty stores. As one of the first impressions many visitors get of the town of Manchester, it helped feed the feeling that the glory was fading. Now, we may see not only a new hotel that will serve an underserved segment of the traveling market, but more retail space as well, if the initially announced plans come to full fruition.

How that will all fare in the long run remains to be seen and this week will be the first installment of the permit hearings. It's in the long term interests of the town that whatever issues may surface be collaboratively dealt with in a way that helps move that along expeditiously.

Those whose enthusiasm may well be under control are the folks who are already in the inn and lodging business, who have contributed much to the town over the years and may be wondering where all the people are supposed to come from to fill all this new inventory and more. "Creative destruction," to coin a phrase often associated with the newspaper business and digital communications, may be great for consumers, who get a product delivered more quickly to them for less - and sometimes an even better product than the stodgy old print version like the one you may be reading now. But it can be rough on those who were used to one reality for a long time, got reasonably good at it, and now feel out-flanked. That collision of tradition and new technology has not been a pretty picture first and always for old-line newspapers who have seen profit margins shrink and employees laid off. The lesson the news industry has had to absorb and accept is adapt, adjust, or go out of business. As an industry, we've not always done that gracefully, effectively or well.

Innovation can often happen quickly in smaller, privately owned businesses, and we will believe that the same kind of creativity and adaptability is present and will help established lodging businesses survive and thrive.

The two hotels are potentially an enormous boon for retailers and other service businesses. Clearly there is a sense that many visitors would like to shop in Manchester and stay overnight here. And if they stay here, the chances of them shopping and dining here get better.

Of course, there's more, as folks who've been following the Subway-Starbucks saga are well aware. Far from forcing older, existing competitors who may be locally owned out of business, these two businesses, which will help revitalize the under-utilized Equinox Square Plaza, will offer options for consumers where none may exist now, or attract more business overall, we believe; attracting money that would have been spent somewhere else. So we're cheered that Starbucks got its parking waiver and that the once-shuttered Friendly's will soon be reopening under new management.

Together, these three restaurants will add some additional sparkle to that part of Depot Street. Plus, we also have a renovated and expanded Dunkin' Donuts shop looking like it's ready to reopen soon.

Meanwhile, what of all those empty storefronts? At some point they will be used for something. Eventually the marketplace finds its own level. Sometimes that takes longer than anyone would like, but the minute someone - like the government - decides they know better than private investors who are risking their own money at how to play this game, we're going to be well down the slippery slope to even more empty storefronts.

The soon-to-be-completed Manchester Community Library will also play a transformative role in the coming years. That interesting and future-oriented structure will also add much to the community when it is up and running.

This is not your grandma's library but one built to serve multiple functions, including lending books. But it will also offer links to many other information sources and services, not the least of which will be the so-called "touch down" office spaces where start up oriented entrepreneurs can translate ideas into realities.

Full disclosure moment: The editor of The Journal is the spouse of the library's board president.

A pat on the back is also to town officials who helped move some or all of this forward is also appropriate. There are times when government can be frustrating, but if we look back to where we were five years ago and compare it to where we are now, there's a lot to cheer about.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

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