Signs of life

“People said Manchester was boring,” recalls Kate Benway, director of marketing and communications for Intown Manchester. Benway, 25, ought to know. She used to say that herself in her not-so-distant high school days.

“When I went off to college, I really didn’t have any plans to come back,” said the 1997 Memorial High grad. “Just about all my friends are in Philly, New York or Boston,” she said. “They’re all saying, ‘What are you doing back in Manchester? What do you want work there for?”’ But following her graduation from Sienna College in Albany, N.Y., Benway came home for one basic reason — survival.

“Like most young people right out of college, I had to live with my family for a while,” she explained. She took a couple of reporter jobs, with the Hippo Press and Neighborhood News, and soon discovered, to her surprise, that she wanted to stay here.

“I was away at college when the civic center thing was going on,” she said. When she returned in the summer of 2001, the Verizon Wireless Arena was about to open and the Queen City had a lot more venues for dining, drinking, listening to music or just hanging out.

“There are places I like to go, like Margarita’s or Strange Brew,” she said. “It’s not that drinking is that big a deal, but for college grads, 22 years old, there are places you can go to get reconnected with the group you grew up with and went to high school with.”

She also finds the city has arts and cultural attractions and the renovations of some of the downtown buildings, along with the sidewalk extensions at Elm Street intersections have made the city’s central business district seem “more pedestrian and visitor-friendly,” she said.

While many of today’s high schoolers continue the tradition of driving back and forth, “cruising” Elm Street, Benway has discovered there are plenty of other things to do in New Hampshire’s largest city.

“It’s not boring anymore,” she observes. — JK

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