Livable: Antique shop latest addition to Gaslight District

In another promising sign for growth in the Gaslight District, a new antique group shop with 60 dealers is moving into the space formerly occupied by All Outdoors at 321 Elm Street.

Antiques on Elm will open April 1 in an area officially referred to as the Warehouse District, just south of the more well-known Gaslight District and directly across the street from the new Market Basket supermarket. Planners have suggested that the two districts be combined and simply called the Gaslight District, which makes sense to us.

The current Van Otis Chocolates facade gives no hint of the old, brick building behind it.

As we discussed in an earlier post, the stretch of Elm Street south of Auburn Street is lined with former warehouses, many of which are awaiting restoration. The spaces inside are almost certainly wide-open like the mills, and the side streets and alleys show some the old brick walls, though most of the Elm Street facades–such as that of Van Otis Chocolates next door to Antiques on Elm–have been given some pretty uninspired treatments that conceal the beautiful old buildings behind them.

The future home of Antiques on Elm next door to Van Otis with its brick facade intact

Fortunately, 321 Elm Street is not one of those cases. The 112-year-old building is the only one in the entire stretch between Auburn and Valley Streets with its original brick facade still intact. We had thought it would be a great spot for a brewpub or perhaps the Manchester Food Co-op, but an antique shop will also be a great fit for the space and for the neighborhood.

The Gaslight District is already home to a growing number of artists, studios and galleries, as well as new restaurants and bars, along with a handful of retail-oriented light manufacturers, like chocolatiers and furniture-makers, not to mention some of the city’s best public art. A multi-dealer antique store will complement the arts and crafts, and dining options already in the neighborhood.

321 Elm Street is near the southern (bottom right) end of the Warehouse District

The promise of the Gaslight District has gone unfulfilled for too long; it seems like the area is finally coming into its own as a charmingly gritty counterpart to downtown north of Granite Street. For the first time since it was first imagined over a decade ago, it’s easy to imagine a bustling district with galleries, artist and craftworker studios, restaurants and bars, specialty shops, and hopefully even residents just a few years from now.

This post is one in an ongoing LivableMHT series, Livable/Unlovable, that will comment on proposals, projects and other topics that are either good (Livable) or bad (Unlovable)  from a livability/urban development viewpoint.


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