Manchester residents may not define “luxury living” the same way they do in Boston and New York, where some swanky apartment and condominium complexes now offer tenants in-house chefs and catered dinners, chauffeured limos, child-care services, heated indoor pools, bocce ball courts and even pet spas.
Still, higher-end living has most definitely arrived in Manchester, albeit in a more restrained, Yankee way both in terms of style and costs.
The recent sale of 875 Elm St. for an eye-popping $39 million and the opening of the new Pearson’s Place in downtown Manchester have only driven home the point: This is not the Manchester of your mill-working, blue-collar grandparents of yesteryear.
Downtown Manchester is quickly filling up with largely young professionals, and more than a few empty nesters, drawn to the area by tech, health and financial services jobs and new restaurants, shops and other “live, work, play” amenities that have become popular in urban settings across the country.
And those workers are finding housing in hundreds of units in recently converted mills and redeveloped commercial blocks, such as the 91 units at 875 Elm St. (in the iconic 10-story “Citizens Bank building”) and the “modishly designed” 30 units in Pearson’s Place at 922 Elm St. next to the city’s venerable Pearson’s Jewelry store. More downtown residences are on the way, including a mixed-used project now under development by Red Oak Apartment Homes on Elm Street just south of the city’s civic arena.
“It used to be that people didn’t want to live downtown,” said Arthur Sullivan, cofounder of Brady Sullivan Properties, which itself has recently converted two former downtown mills into “luxury lofts” for mostly young professionals. “Today, people want to be where there’s activities, shops, restaurants, offices.”
Sullivan makes no bones about it: His target market is “six–figure” young professionals who enjoy living in downtown settings, particularly converted historic buildings, such as Brady Sullivan’s Lofts at Mill Number One (110 units) and Lofts at Mill West (300 units), both located in Manchester’s Millyards district.
In other cities, urban lofts are not always considered “luxury” living, but when they’re 900- to 2,000-square-foot lofts, like some are in Manchester, that’s about as close as one can get, at least in term of size. Sullivan also noted some of his firm’s converted mill-loft buildings, in Manchester and elsewhere, include game rooms, movie-viewing spaces and even a basketball court.
In Manchester, Brady Sullivan’s loft rentals run anywhere from $1,400 to $2,500, Sullivan said.
At other non-loft residential complexes in Manchester, average rents are around $2,000 and up, such as at 875 Elm St., said Matt Mercier of Manchester’s Jill & Co. Realty Group.
Still, those rental prices are considerably less than what’s being charged in Boston and Portsmouth on a per-foot-square basis, real estate experts said.
“The price points in Manchester are not overheated,” Mercier said.
Scott Godzyk of Godzyk Real Estate Service in Manchester agreed; “our luxury is affordable,” he said. “We don’t have the services you might have in Boston. It’s more about a good location in nice buildings.”
Investors, Young Workers Attracted
While not overheated, the Manchester residential market is hot enough to attract developers and investors.
Carlisle Capital Corp., headed by Seacoast businessman Bill Binnie, bought 875 Elm in 2015 for $8.1 million and then redeveloped it into today’s higher-end residential complex with Citizens Bank and the 110 Grill restaurant on the ground level. Carlisle sold the building in March to Red Oak Apartment Homes, which owns more than 1,500 apartment units across the state, for $39 million, according to published reports.
As seemingly spectacular as that price appears, other residential properties have sold in recent years for big bucks in Manchester, reflecting the overall strength of the city’s market. They include the sale of Waterford Place on the city’s west side for $57 million in 2006 and the sale of Village Circle Way on the west side for $46 million in 2016, according to a recent Union-Leader report. Waterford place traded again last week for $67 million.
The bottom line: Manchester, particularly its downtown, is attracting higher-end residents – which in turn spurs and boosts retail, hospitality and more housing activity.
“It’s a tremendously exciting time,” said Mike Skelton, president and chairman of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.
And as long the city’s economy keeps humming and keeps attracting young workers, particularly tech workers, Manchester’s residential market looks bright in the long run, said Lisa Boucher, co-owner of Hearthside Realty in Manchester.
“It’s not like technology is a fad and is going away,” she said.