(Host) A proposal to build a chain hotel in Manchester’s historic district is getting a skeptical reception from village residents.
As VPR’s Susan Keese reports, the project would include tearing down a much older inn that’s currently vacant.
(Keese) The proposed Hampton Inn and Suites would be a little less than two blocks from the sprawling – but historic – Equinox Resort – and well south of the outlet stores of Manchester Center.
The new, 80-room hotel would cover two currently vacant lots and a third lot, occupied by the former Village Country Inn. The old 32-room inn was built in 1889 and is registered as a historic building.
But it’s stood abandoned since 2009 when it was sold in foreclosure. Residents say it’s become an eyesore.
(Knight) We’re all concerned about the current condition of the building."
(Keese) Brian Knight is president of the Manchester village trustees.
(Knight) "No one wants something on our main street that is not attractive. That’s why I think there is a general willingness to work with somebody who submits an application and see if we can come up with something that works for all of us."
(Keese) The developers are a New Hampshire construction company and a hotel management group from New York state.
The developers declined to be interviewed. They’re seeking local zoning variances that would allow them to move ahead. And Knight says they seem willing to adapt to regulations designed to preserve the village’s historic character.
Artist renderings for the project show a gabled, white building rather than a typical chain hotel.
But at a heavily attended hearing with the local development review board, Knight says residents seemed unimpressed.
(Knight) "To my recollection there was really no one who spoke in favor of it."
(Keese) Bruce Duff, a former Manchester innkeeper, says the proposed 80-room hotel is just too big for the neighborhood.
(Duff) "And quite frankly it isn’t in sync with the bylaws or the general feel of what Manchester Village is all about. I believe there will be other opportunities for people who don’t have quite the need to have 80 rooms in order to make the investment work."
(Keese) Many residents objected to demolishing the inn already on the site. Local regulations only allow a historic building to be torn down if engineers determine it’s beyond repair.
The developers’ engineering study says the old inn is too far gone to be renovated. Village officials say they’ll put off a decision at least until August, while they make an effort to confirm those findings.
For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Manchester.