Greater Manchester: 2011 real estate ‘hot spot’

With the dawning of a new year, I’ll offer some thoughts about what I think will be the Greater Manchester “hot spot” locations that will drive commercial real estate this year.In Manchester itself, the South Elm area, bookended by the Elliot Hospital’s River’s Edge project on the south and the new Market Basket grocery store on the north, will certainly see redevelopment as a direct result of these two key projects. There is virtually no vacant land along this stretch, so expect to see redevelopment of existing properties.The Northwest Business Park near the Hooksett town line (the old University of New Hampshire Manchester campus) is poised to take off. The developer who has purchased the project from the city already has significant industrial users – in both numbers and size – lined up as tenants. Just north of this project is Exit 10 in Hooksett, which has seen phenomenal growth over the past five years. A Market Basket is under construction, other projects are in the early planning phases, and there are significant land parcels still available for development. The area on the south side of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Londonderry has plenty of land available for development, which planning officials hope the completion of the airport access road and the construction of the Pettingill Road extension – both expected to open in October – will boost.This area, and to a lesser extent sections of Bedford and Merrimack close to the new Route 3 interchange, will be open to several types of uses, including office, hotel, industrial and perhaps even a convention center. Bedford and beyondThe second phase of a medical complex project next to the Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center on South River Road is expected to be completed this year, with additional phases following. We may also see an additional Elliot facility at the corner of Routes 101/114 in Bedford.Site work on the outlet stores in Merrimack near Exit 10 has started, and this project is likely to draw related uses to the area – casual theme restaurants, pharmacies and gas stations – similar to what has grown up around the outlet stores in Tilton at Exit 20 on I-93. Land for a large-scale project planned for the former Woodmont Orchards in Londonderry at Exit 4 has already been acquired, but the public approval phase is just beginning. Given the complexities of the project, I’m not optimistic that we will see any construction in 2011, but when it is completed, this will be a project unlike any other in the state, and if successful, might serve as a blueprint for other communities.Office space has been a difficult sector for a few years now, and there is no reason to think that things will get much better in 2011. Many companies have gone “virtual,” eliminating the need for large offices, and for those who continue to use space, the allocated area for employees continues to shrink. The towers in downtown Manchester have significant vacancy, and now that the former Pandora Mill building has come on line, there is even more space to fill. Unfortunately there is still a belief that there is not enough parking in Manchester’s central business district. While the parking areas may not be right in front of the buildings they serve, they do exist and can generally meet the needs of any user. It has been difficult, however, to convince other businesses that they can have all of their parking needs met downtown.
Dan Scanlon, JD, CCIM, is an adviser with Grubb & Ellis|Northern New England, Bedford. He can be reached at 603-206-9605 or