Broad Street site draws interest

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There are at least 20 “serious anchor prospects” for the former Parkade site on Broad Street, and advanced discussions are taking place with 10 to 15 in an attempt to secure a letter of interest, officials say.

Kiran Marok of LiveWorkLearnPlay, the Montreal-based master developer on the project, told the Redevelopment Agency this month that her company identified 20 prospects out of 36 originally considered for a mixed-use development that includes a medical or education anchor.

There have been “face-to-face” meetings with these prospects, LWLP co-managing partner and founding principal Max Reim said, with the company receiving three to four calls a week from a “large medical advisory company” outside of Connecticut. There have also been a number of meetings with in-state prospects whose detailed questions indicate a substantial level of interest, Reim said.

LWLP would not tell the RDA who the interested parties are, however, as discussions are ongoing.

“It’s very exciting — it really is,” RDA Chairman Timothy J. Devanney said today. “But until they get down to the point of who it’s going to be, they really can’t talk about names.”

Devanney hopes a frontrunner will emerge in the next month or so.

LWLP has taken many of the prospective developers on tours of Manchester and heard glowing remarks, Devanney said.

Potential developers did question the lack of bus service on Broad Street and possible environmental conditions, Reim said.

While there are few physical barriers, town regulations limiting parking or research and development are a challenge, LWLP officials say. Also, the site along Green Manor Boulevard faces the rear loading docks and service areas of the adjacent shopping center, creating further design and aesthetic hurdles.

In the meantime, local architects Fuss & O’Neill have created two models of mixed-use development at the site to show what can be accommodated or allowed by zoning regulations.

They included a low-density model with a 100,000 square-foot anchor in one three-story building, with the rest of the site divided into specialty housing and small multifamily apartments or townhouses with a parking garage to support the area.

The second high-density scenario is similar, but includes a larger anchor in two four-story buildings totaling 250,000 square-feet. Some of the other buildings in this model are three or four stories and could support retail or smaller office space along with the multifamily residences.

Reim said the concept designs are based on current market expectations.

Vice Chairman Robert Schneider noted that the most exciting part of the update was that conversations were taking place with interested parties.

RDA member and Probate Judge Michael Darby said he’d like to see the development be as high density as possible while still looking attractive.

RDA member Gary Sweet noted that the market would ultimately determine density. His main concern was that it be sustainable and on site for long term.

Reim said sustainability should be a consideration.

LWLP conducted the first-phase market study for the town-owned 18-acre parcel on Broad Street that formerly was the site of a derelict strip mall. Released in September, the $150,000 study offered three options with a preference for a mixed medical-educational campus with some housing.

In February the town’s Board of Directors extended the contract with LWLP for $236,250, giving it six months to implement a plan and identify potential developers, tenants, or investors, ideally with letters of intent.

By August there should be a framework to negotiate land disposition, financing, and potential partnership agreements, along with business and financial models and an economic impact to the area. LWLP must also present a conceptual physical development plan for the site that includes a layout of buildings and streets.

It could get a three-month extension to finish the work if necessary, but at no additional payment.

Funds come from the $8 million referendum voters approved in 2009 to redevelop Broad Street. About $2 million is left from that bond.