Manchester Board considers housing study
MANCHESTER — The Select Board discussed the implications of a recent study that found significant demand for more rental housing in downtown Manchester.
"It's interesting," said Chairman Ivan Beattie at the Feb. 18 meeting. "It certainly puts numbers on what we all know to be true," including the fact that there are more jobs than workers living in Manchester.
Some of the commuters who fill those jobs would elect to move to Manchester if the right kind of housing were available, the study suggests.
Largely funded through a state grant and conducted by Doug Kennedy Advisors, the study found "evident marked-based support" for a potential real-estate development in downtown Manchester that would include dozens of apartments and 10,000 square feet of commercial space.
The project could include of a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments that would target people who earn anywhere from 60 percent to more than 80 percent of Bennington County's area median income, which is about $60,000 annually per household, according to Janet Hurley, the town's planning and zoning director, who presented the study's findings to the board.
Beattie questioned how attracting commuters to live in Manchester by increasing the town's housing supply might impact towns like Danby and Sunderland that, according to the study that cites state and federal statistics, have fewer jobs than residents.
Hurley said that people who prefer rural settings would opt to remain where they currently live, but that certain millennials and baby boomers are seeking to live in a downtown environment.
As a second phase of the study, which is also supported by a state grant, the town is now seeking proposals from outside firms to develop plans for a potential mixed-use development — one informed by the results of the Kennedy Advisors study — for at least two specific downtown sites.
The study will explore what type of project would be financially feasible for a developer to build in downtown Manchester given market demand, demographics, zoning regulations and other factors, Hurley said.
One of the sites that will be considered is the 1.4-acre, town-owned property on Depot Street that currently hosts J.Crew and other establishments, according to Hurley. The Kennedy Advisors study noted that site's "highly convenient downtown location," high visibility and other advantages.
"Area contacts note the existing commercial structures could be adapted to the addition of residential units on the upper/rear portions of the structures while retaining their first floor commercial uses," the study states. "Further, contacts indicate that the site has sufficient acreage to develop a multi-unit rental structure on the northern portion of the property."
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