Upgrades have Gaslight District on the upswing


THE ONCE ABSTRACT “Gaslight District” is now a legitimate Manchester locale, with a beautiful new archway across Depot Street proclaiming the official designation for all to see.

The sign is part of a federally-funded project you probably noticed going on this summer with the building of new sidewalks and pedestrian ramps on Elm Street, between Old Granite and Auburn streets.

Heidi Marshall, with engineering firm CLD | Fuss & O’Neill, said the Gaslight project has been in the works for years. The city applied for $10 million in federal money to totally refurbish the area — which encompasses streets and properties between Old Granite, Canal, Auburn, and Elm. Less than $1 million was awarded, but the work they have been able to do is already making a difference in the area.

“It’s already happening,” Marshall said. “The property owners are investing in their properties.”

At Studio 550 Art Center, founder Monica Leap is planning to paint a mural on her building. She is delighted by the improvements, including a tree, flatter sidewalks and brighter decorative LED lights.

“In the past we felt a little disconnected from the prettier parts of downtown, but now there is great visual continuity … and the arch branding the neighborhood really draws your eye,” she told The Scene.

Restaurateurs Keith and Kelleigh Murphy have liked the Gaslight District concept since they first heard about it 11 years ago when they opened Murphy’s Taproom at the corner of Auburn and Elm.

“Manchester is a city rich in both culture and history and I think it’s important to celebrate that, particularly where it can serve to drive the local economy and bring more people to the downtown and outlying areas,” Kelleigh Murphy wrote to The Scene.

But how did the Gaslight District get its name? It took phone calls to project managers, city officials, and even the Manchester Historic Association before I could find the official story.

Thanks to Jeffrey Belanger, senior planner at the city’s planning department, for uncovering a 2004 document that highlights the Gaslight District as an area for improvement.

“The name ‘Gaslight District’ was originally coined by the former Director of Planning and Community Development, Bob McKenzie,” Belanger said. “He got the name from a nearby business that used to exist there called the “People’s Gas Light Co.”

Glad to see McKenzie’s vision taking steps toward becoming a reality.

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