Manchester, infamously known as Dogtown, continues to see development and it’s heading westward. This new growth is led Michael Hild, Charlie Westbrook, and other individuals who have invested serious financial capital and energy into the area. But this investment is a slight shift from past development and focuses on the section of Manchester anchored by Hull Street between Cowardin and Commerce. As development pushes westward along Hull Street there are strong indicators it will continue through and past our neighborhood.
Justin Sledd, a commercial real estate agent at One South Realty Group, says, “The recently approved B5 rezoning along Hull street, which allows for taller buildings, is causing property owners to re-think the current use of their space. The desire of developers to preserve so many of the cool old buildings is requiring some creative thinking.” Developers want to balance the preservation of historic property while adding new height. Sledd has managed property in the area and has sold several properties along Hull Street recently.
Sharing the hope of many in our neighborhood that the development will be beneficial, Sledd notes, “It will result in more commercial occupants and hopefully things like grocery stores will be more enticed to fill upcoming vacancies.” A grocery store has been much sought after from those in and neighboring Manchester.
The last WHCA meeting included fervent discussion about the fate of 3101 Porter Street. The property was used as an assisted living facility for years and is currently vacant. Its nearly 20,000 square feet of commercial space is a major source of concern for our community. A city official spoke at the meeting and discussed the requirement fora new special use permit to be issued to whoever purchases the building at auction. The special use permit must be issued by the city’s Department of Development and Planning Review and will add additional restraints to the type, size, and design of the property.
Assessed at just over 1 million dollars, it will be a potentially large under taking for a developer and has already garnered significant attention from homeowners who are worried about the potential direction of the upcoming development.
Continuing westward, development is marked by new restaurants Little Nickel and Happy Empanada at the corner of Westover Hills Boulevard and Forest Hill Avenue. The announcement a month ago about mixed-use commercial space with a Veil Brewing tasting room spurred buzz and positive energy from significant portions of the neighboring community. Local developer duo Birck Turnbull and Charles Bice of High Summit Partners, LLC have more recently been focused on Veil’s flagship location and other projects in Scott’s Addition. Their shift of attention to opportunities south of the James indicates that investors recognize the energy and promising, lucrative opportunities here.
As with any development, communities are forced to be adaptive and to change. For now, our neighborhood will need to be a positive advocate for those looking to invest while also protecting our green spaces, historic buildings, and neighborhood charm.