MHT Forward: Building community pride

MHTThis post is part of MHT Forward, an ongoing series written by Manchester native Brian Chicoine. Brian also writes a weekly column for Manchester Ink Link, and recently founded the Facebook group Manchester Forward, which is dedicated to celebrating the Queen City and advocating for an even more vibrant, people-focused, and financially stable community that honors its history and embraces its identity as it builds for the future.

Kennedy declared his candidacy for president at Manchester’s Carpenter Hotel

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”

– John F. Kennedy

Service to the MHT

The Millyard and downtown Manchester skyline - photo by PSNH
The Millyard and downtown Manchester skyline – photo by PSNH

Having spent most of my life volunteering and being involved in my community, I find it fitting to return to my hometown of Manchester to help guide it as we continue into the future. While we move forward, we need to remember and honor the past so that we never forget what was involved in building and keeping our great city going. We need to remember where we came from.

As I have mentioned in previous pieces, Manchester has a history of destroying its past or neglecting things to the point that they need to be torn down. Manchester has made its mistakes, but they have also done some great things, such as restoring the Millyard. The Millyard district is a great example of honoring the past while building for the future with its modern businesses housed inside 19th century mill buildings.

The Issues

Downtown Manchester seen from the surface parking that dominates portions of the Millyard – photo by Ynsalh

Like many American cities, Manchester has seen vacant buildings, crime, and unemployment. The city has a sub-par citywide transit system and the regional system relies on busses, most of which have their closest stop at a station situated in North Londonderry, which is about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Manchester, (not helpful to those who do not drive). There are vacant and under-utilized buildings that could be used for the benefit of residents and visitors. Surface parking lots are in abundance, taking away from the beauty that the city offers and taking valuable space that could be better utilized.

The riverfront is underutilized, with a major point of access that is near downtown currently being used as a surface parking lot with occasional festivals. Underutilized and unrealized potential are terms I use to describe aspects of Manchester. The public schools are seen as sub-par and the Board of School Committee seems to constantly clash with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. This non-cooperation and gridlock often results in lack of sensible policy that harms students and often restricts our teachers’ ability to teach.

Manchester has lost too many iconic structures like the Notre Dame Bridge, demolished in 1989 – photo by Ernest Gould
In a moment of epic shortsightedness, the white building and every other building in front of it in this photo were also demolished to make way for the Notre Dame Bridge’s uninspiring replacement – photo from the Historic American Building Survey

The biggest tragedy, which I see as the biggest issue and obstacle to Manchester moving forward is that the people have lost their civic pride. Who could blame them? Many people see a growing number of problematic issues in the city while its government is seemingly absent or non-responsive and rarely takes into consideration the thoughts and opinions of the residents when making decisions. They also see a government that by and large is only accessible by the connected and the chosen. This belief may have grown out of the witnessed lack of national leadership and the constant battles within Congress as well as the divide between them and the White House. But this is local and should not be like the federal level. We can do better.

Part of the Solution

As mentioned in my previous piece, MHT Forward: Celebrate Manchester, we all have a role. Government alone is not the solution, it needs our help – our participation. Government can pave the way for ideas to become reality. And while some good ideas come from people within the government, their primary role is to pave the way.

I contemplated this for a while. I thought about how Manchester is a really nice place to live and has a lot going for it but needs a little “push” to help it move forward. Manchester does have urban problems as cities do, but they are able to be solved with cooperation. Then the vision for a people-led organization that advocates for a better MHT became Manchester Forward.

Despite the loss of many important buildings, plenty of history and community remains to build on to move Manchester Forward - photo by Bryan Mabrle
Despite the loss of many important buildings, plenty of history and community remains to build on to move Manchester Forward – photo by Bryan Mabrle

Manchester Forward

The mission of Manchester Forward is to “celebrate our city and to advocate for an even more vibrant, people-focused, and economically stable community that honors its past and embraces its identity as it builds for the future.”

We want to see people once again have hope and civic pride, to be proud that Manchester is their home. We don’t want Manchester to just be a place where one lives, but to be a community that they can be proud of. We want to see a Manchester government that is responsive to the needs of the citizens. We want a Manchester that considers all factors when designing projects and be mindful of our history and heritage.

Next Steps

Our plan is to return to the city in the upcoming months and grow Manchester Forward into a nonprofit organization. We are currently in the process of establishing connections prior to our move. It is these connections along with relationships with other stakeholders that will make the difference that will make Manchester Forward successful.

Connect with Manchester Forward

You can like Manchester Forward on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. Also feel free to send us an email. Let us know your thoughts and if you have any ideas!

We also plan on hosting some events when we settle in Manchester…any input would be appreciated. It is with your help that we will help Manchester move forward!

This is one in an ongoing series of posts by guest contributors on LivableMHT, and as with all guests posts, the views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of LivableMHT. LivableMHT seeks the input and contribution of members of the Manchester community, as well as those with insight into livability locally or globally. If you have information, ideas or thoughts to share, please contact us.


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