View Full Version : Manchester Livability Website

02-20-2011, 12:53 PM
As has been discussed in the Manchester Developments (http://www.archboston.org/community/showthread.php?t=950) thread, I am planning to start a website to promote livability, traditional neighborhoods, urban development and smart growth in Manchester, New Hampshire similar to what Greater City: Providence (http://www.gcpvd.org/) is doing there.

I am starting this thread initially to gather input on the site content, direction and name. Once it's up, I hope this thread will continue to offer ideas, feedback and criticism as necessary for the website.

The website will initially start out small, and hopefully grow with more contributors, ideas, proposals and so on. I will set it up initially, offering some basic information and explaining the mission of the website, and presumably solicit contributions or further information from interested parties, particularly resident-advocates. I'm not sure how this will work, but I'm guessing that at least in the beginning I will serve as a sort of editor/publisher and contributors will have to submit ideas, posts, information and tips, which I will then post (crediting the contributors, of course). Perhaps in the future, there can be more of an editorial board made up of major contributors, neighborhood editors and so on, while I would likely continue to serve as publisher.

The site will focus primarily on Manchester, both the city as a whole and individual neighborhoods and groups of neighborhoods. Reflecting the somewhat arbitrary municipal lines, I think it would be good to also include information on urbanized or ubanizing areas immediately adjacent to Manchester, such as Pinardville in Goffstown and the South River Road corridor in Bedford. Pertinent major developments in neighboring towns (Woodmont Orchards in Londonderry, for instance) and projects of regional importance (Capitol Corridor commuter rail, for instance) could also be included.

Here are my thoughts on what the website should contain, whether initially or eventually:

Act as a clearinghouse for information regarding plans, proposals, projects, developments, ordinances, zoning and so forth, which right now is spread across a wide number of websites and agencies. I think this would consist of links to relevant materials sorted by project, neighborhoods, etc.
Publish columns, posts, opinion pieces and news from myself and contributors (plus links to pertinent pieces elsewhere) regarding livability issues, the built environment and community efforts toward the same
Generate community and resident-driven ideas, development plans and proposals, neighborhood plans, zoning and ordiance proposals, development strategies and so on
Provide maps of neighborhoods (according to the City planning department) and neighborhood centers; major ongoing, proposed and potential developments; transit and alternative transportation; and so on
Post (perhaps on an affiliated flickr account) images of historic, current and proposed neighborhoods, developments and the city in general
Link to planning agencies and departments, government and civic groups, transit and transportation planners and advocates, neighborhood groups, related websites and advocacy groups for other cities and livability issues in general

As far as a name goes, I am thinking of LivableMHT. I like this for a number of reasons: it?s succinct and clearly articulates the focus of the site; the airport code, MHT, is less generic and wordy than either Manchester or Queen City, and is clearly associated with the city; MHT also indicates a primary focus on Manchester with a secondary interest in the region; LivableMHT can easily be both the name of the website/organization and the URL address. While it?s a bit cheesy, it also lends itself to a slogan like ?Manchester: Livable, Lovable? or something similar. I?m far from set on this, though, and would really like some feedback. The content can be easily adjusted later, but the name won?t be so flexible.

Mission Statement
Finally, here?s a first draft mission statement that I would post on the ?About? section, and which should sum up the goals, intentions and focus of the site:

LivableMHT is a website dedicated to gathering information regarding livability issues, the built environment and planning in Manchester, New Hampshire. LivableMHT also promotes livability issues, traditional neighborhoods, urban growth, pedestrian and transit-oriented development, public transit and alternative transportation, neighborhood revitalization and civic beautification efforts to create more vibrant communities and improve the quality of life for residents of Manchester and the surrounding region.

I think either linking to or explaining ?livability? (perhaps that it?s the flip side of the same coin more often focused on conserving open space and fighting sprawl in rural New Hampshire) would be helpful.

Feedback needed
I?m hoping to get this started soon, so any feedback would be hugely appreciated. Everything I?ve written here is an early draft and I?m not wedded to any of it. For this site to be successful, it?s going to need to reflect the input and ambitions of members of the Manchester community and those of us interested in seeing its further growth through smart planning and development.

02-20-2011, 01:10 PM
Do it! Sounds amazing, love GCP, Manchester needs something like that.

02-20-2011, 07:08 PM
Thanks, Muns.

Two huge things I forgot to address in the mission statement is affordability and economic development, which I would work in somehow, perhaps like this:

LivableMHT is a website dedicated to gathering information regarding livability issues, the built environment and planning in Manchester, New Hampshire. LivableMHT also promotes urban development patterns and livability issues, principally supporting traditional, walkable and affordable neighborhoods connected by public transit and alternative transportation in order to create more vibrant communities, foster greater economic development and improve the quality of life for residents of Manchester and the surrounding region.

02-20-2011, 08:37 PM
Mission statement should also be a way to publicize and share people's thoughts about issues, the city, and new plans.

What does MHT stand for? Although the name sounds fine to me, I know MHT is something not stupid for a name.

Another thing is many of these types of sites are rarely updated. Make sure to keep it updated and maybe a date to say when last updated.

Must address payment/donations for the site payment. And on this matter, if the site plans to expand, then we need plans and goals to expand. Money required for this too?

We also make sure to decide whether or not "news on events" will be posted on this site. I say we do not, unless directly related to development or livability (ie. Meetings, new development, neighborhood volunteer thing) But omit things like news on shows, games, entertainment.

Keep the site looking good. It needs to be very attractive and easily navigated so new comers are not overwhelmed. Maybe use pictures to address each topic and stuff like this.

And we must also make sure that any and all information that is found online is routed to the site and posted asap as this is the purpose of it.

Wherever the site is hosted I would prefer to see an attached email for it as well and upkept by Frank Lloyd Mike.

And on a non topic note, FLM, I went to the Currier this past Wednesday, very nice, never been, and never knew they had the rights to the writes house here in New England. And it is open to the public. Kinda cool.

02-20-2011, 08:41 PM
Oh, and issue number one! BIKE PATHS AND BIKE LOCK UPS! The city needs more bike racks and locking areas as well as more bike friendly roads and paths. Down town, all the parks, Pinardsville (is this Manch or Goffs or both?) and Rimmon Heights.

They are not that expensive and can be cemented or bolted right into the sidewalk so they are not stolen. Manchester has VERY limited bike amenities right now.

Another idea that kinda see as why it has not been done but the river walk. I just see it as being a huge potential and again not that big of a cost however again I never paid too close attentions and think some buildings are right up against the water if I remember from back at UNH there and that would cost a lot to get a walkway built along them.

02-21-2011, 09:45 AM
I am planning for the front page to be a longer explanation of the site and an open invitation for ideas, contributions, suggestions, etc. I think the mission statement can address this a bit more abstractly (just to keep the whole thing short), perhaps something like this:

LivableMHT is a website dedicated to gathering information regarding livability issues, the built environment and planning in Manchester, New Hampshire, as well as promoting urban development patterns and garnering public input on livability issues. LivableMHT principally advocates robust urban centers and walkable, affordable neighborhoods connected by public transit and alternative transportation in order to create more vibrant communities, foster greater economic development and improve the quality of life for residents of Manchester and the surrounding region.

MHT is the airport code for Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, similar to LAX in Los Angeles. The Greater City: Providence website uses PVD, the airport code for T.F. Green in its URL, and airport codes are used for shorthand and nicknames in several cities, such as PDX in Portland, Oregon. I've seen MHT used occasionally to refer to the city of Manchester, though less so than either the Queen City or Manch Vegas.

I'm planning to use a simple WordPress site and host it there, which is very affordable ($17/year). I'm happy to eat that cost rather than having to deal with setting up, maintaining and dealing with donations. Depending on how things go, we may need to upgrade to a more complex, costlier site in the future, in which case we'd need to figure out funding, but for now I want to keep it very simple.

I completely agree about needing to keep it simple, user-friendly, attractive, and up-to-date. WordPress gives you an email address with the website, so I'll be using that to hopefully get input and alerts (plus contributions) from others as well as adding anything I find to the site.

On a side note, the bike path/amenities note is right on, and one issue I hope the website will do a good job of addressing. Manchester Moves, which I plan to link to under "Public Transit and Alternative Transportation" is doing some great things, and there are some wonderful, new bike paths/recreational trails around the city, but there need to be bike lanes and lock-ups throughout the city. Similarly, the Riverwalk is a project that can be daunting to find information on despite its publicity, and I hope the website will both gather the information that does exist and give another push to complete the project.

Pinardville is actually an excellent example of why I think the site should not be limited strictly to city limits. Pinardville is mostly in Goffstown, but partially in Manchester. Either in spite or because of this, it's also one of the few old neighborhoods that has retained its identity and been widely known by its name over the past century.

02-21-2011, 11:40 AM
Sounds like a great idea, good luck with this!

02-21-2011, 07:58 PM
I'll set up donations. Easy to do. PayPal makes it easy and safe. Just with the click of a button anyone can donate to the PayPal account. And money does make things run so I think it would be a good idea. Maybe keep an update on the site for how much money is needed. I use PayPal all the time. My biggest concern is making sure money is used for the site only and if we get too much money.

Like this site is being set up by you, and I said I would get the PayPal thing going, meaning ultimately until you change the password I will have access. And neither of us have met each other. Although I am quick to trust people, it is not always the safest way to approach things.

Second, if people donate money, and all we have to pay is $17.00 a year we may get more than we need. Is it saved until we get a need for it? I do not see a problem with that.

If you need any help let me know and I may be of service.

02-21-2011, 10:33 PM
Great work on this idea. I like the name, too. In Portland, however, I get the feeling that "livability" as applied to urban settings means NO development. That name, therefore, would not work here. If you check out livabilitylaw.com, there they advocate for a range of development, not just NO development, and I think that is the true interpretation of the word in an urban planning context. Livability in a cities context includes job growth, not just bike paths. No slight to bike paths, but in Portland it seems if the majority had their way (and they usually do), the place would be a big circle where everyone walked all day (to what?).

02-21-2011, 11:36 PM
I see where you are coming from, however I am also confused. Do you like the name or think it needs changing?

Livability I see being geared towards non development things (ie. parks) however livability in the way it is intended means overall growth of a city in the best possible way to make the area basically more enjoyable. That is just my take on it. And this would include new developments. It would tie in the new development with how beneficial is it and hopefully low negatives with it.

I think the name fits, however I think thought must be put into whether or not it is at all misleading and making it seem like it is some (save the open land and convert all large developments to open land and parks site)

02-22-2011, 12:45 AM
I see where you are coming from, however I am also confused. Do you like the name or think it needs changing?

Livability I see being geared towards non development things (ie. parks) however livability in the way it is intended means overall growth of a city in the best possible way to make the area basically more enjoyable. That is just my take on it. And this would include new developments. It would tie in the new development with how beneficial is it and hopefully low negatives with it.

I think the name fits, however I think thought must be put into whether or not it is at all misleading and making it seem like it is some (save the open land and convert all large developments to open land and parks site)

I like it for Manch, not for Portland.

02-22-2011, 06:16 AM
Interesting note on the use in Portland. I get the sense that Portland and Manchester are in somewhat different places here. Portland seems to have a good number of intact neighborhood centers (even if they could possibly use further development) just outside of downtown. In Manchester, these seem to be far fewer areas like this; the downtown was rightly the focus over the past several years and it has seen tremendous growth. There is certainly more growing to do downtown, but I think it's an appropriate time to shift the thinking to redeveloping density, walkability and mixed-use projects just outside the downtown. In Manchester, then, livability to me means not just improved bike paths and sidewalks, but improved transit and redevelopment, growth and increased density in many key areas outside of and including downtown. Growth or similar terms don't seem to cut it, as there are too many suburban projects still in consideration--Hackett Hill, for instance: why not build or encourage a research park down by Rivers Edge instead of off in the hinterland?

02-22-2011, 12:18 PM
Don't want to drag this on too far, but Hackett Hill kills me. I think there are better spots than a preservation land to build a business park.

There are too many run down buildings and other things in the center of the city that could be used. And I think furthering larger more dense development within the center city and reserving the outskirts for residential and preserved land is better use.

But I agree with the livability, and also I see Manchester focusing a lot on Downtown, but I think there are wants to expand outward in making things better, but I think right now with possibly the poor economy things have been slow. Southern end of Elm st, Gaslight district, and Granite St. are all areas they want to focus on but little has gone on.

And to tie back into bikes, biking is a way to get people out of cars, on the sidewalks, to use parks, and get people outside more. It is tough to do when people bike to a building and no bike racks are there. It is a much cheaper way than building a whole new public transportation infrastructure. And one goal in a city is to get people to get out on the streets and ultimately spend money at stores to keep things running. Having good biking amenities helps aid this and a city passing this up is a bit of a waste. However I do know there are many more things the city also needs to focus on.

I checked out the Manch Moves site and it is cool what they do (never been to the site or knew about the group) but I think the bike paths are a bit weak in Manchester and are in most towns and cities and communities. I am a biker and hate when there is potential for a bike path but instead it just ends for whatever reason. I would love to see more bike paths that are complete and not only completely connect parts of the city together but actual towns together.

02-22-2011, 03:02 PM
I am not against livability, far from. However, I think a city like Manch, which is largely industrial still (or feels it anyway) could benefit from this label more than Portland, which has become a retirement community. There needs to be balance between growth and other urban amenities, and although I realize that in a strict sense this is what livability means, I don't think many people view it that way. Portland already is very livable, and needs to emphasize growth, not walking trails (it has plenty). Manch on the other hand could benefit from more positive growth attributes in addition to quantity alone. It is poised to grow and continue growing no matter what, and already is much larger than Portland. Portland might become a backwater if it doesn't position itself properly to grow.

02-23-2011, 05:00 PM
I think the city needs more amenities to attract business, students, and living in the city.

When I was in Portland, I was impressed with how nice it was (parks, sidewalks, neighborhoods)

02-25-2011, 03:31 PM
It's still very much a work in progress, but LivableMHT (http://livablemht.org/) is online now. I'm just beginning to upload items and link to things, and a lot of what's up there is a placeholder. Still, I want to get some early feedback if I can.

I'm especially interested in what people think of the page titles and organization. Are they clear, and do they make sense? I wanted to keep the names of pages like "Information" short enough, but what do people think? Similarly, is the aim to get people to submit ideas and information clear?

I'm planning on adding more links and documents over the weekend and next weekend. Then I'm hoping to add some images where I can... small images for some projects perhaps, just to add some visual interest. In the spring, I hope to go around the city and take a bunch of photos of successful and burgeoning areas, landmarks and developments under construction. Most of these will probably end up on an associated flickr account or something (and I'd like other people to be able to add their own), but some should be posted throughout the site. Similarly, I'll use some for different, perhaps rotating banner images.

Once it's up a bit more, I'm planning to post all news and contributions on that page and save the front page for posting and linking to whatever are the most recent updates--if a new project is added in the Information section, or a new map is created or changed, or there's new news or a new contribution, I want the front page to serve as a place to announce all that so people aren't constantly clicking through to see what is new.

Also, once it's more complete, I'm going to need to figure out a way to get the word out there about it. Any thoughts?

02-25-2011, 09:42 PM
The maps page, first map opens a new tab, second doe snot. I like the new tab. Overall look needs work, but I like it.

If you want pictures I can take as I like to do so and am decent and have a camera and go to Manchester every so often. I agree, spring may be best.

Bus routes on Google is missing the route 9 Nashua Express.

On the home page it could be a bit more clear that not only does the site accept contributions but also promotes them.

Go directly to to town hall, get permission to post posters about the site, also post in restaurants, cafe's and bars. Advertise on other Manchester sites already up. Post in colleges (NHIA and UNHM) Other ideas I have no idea.

Picture should change up top with each new page if Wordpress allows.

02-26-2011, 09:00 AM
Good work. You mentioned GCPVD as a sort of model and it's a good one.I love the maps, great touch.

Keep it up, I'll be checking it out.

02-26-2011, 12:50 PM
Thanks for the input.

I just realized the same thing about the maps opening in new pages/same page. I think as a rule I'm going to have any link within the site open in the same page, anything redirected elsewhere open in a new page.

I'd love pictures from other people, as well as any other contributions. As it gets going, I hope there will be photos up for events, projects and so on, as well as just photos of neighborhoods, places people like, places that need improvement, whatever. I think those general photos should end up on flickr or somewhere like that dedicated to photos. I'll look into starting an account/group where people can add or submit their photos for inclusion.

The MTA google map was created by the city and is out-of-date (no #9 or Downtown Circulator, I believe). I'll try to send them a line to let them know it's out-of-date.

I'll see if I can figure out a way to make it more clear on the home page that contributions are encouraged and sought. I'm still figuring out WordPress, and as of right now the home page functions more as a blog. This will work fine as a way to keep a running update on what's new and happening, but I agree that there should be a quick blurb at the top or the side about seeking contributions and input. I'd also like the home page to maybe link to top sites, most commented posts, images or some other things. Still, I want the site to be calm and clear. I like GCPVD a lot; their information, ideas and graphics are all solid, but to me the site is a bit busy. I want to avoid that without the site feeling dry.

I'm also still working on nailing down the look of the site. I like the banner (and the idea of a different image for each page) and the menus below it. I'm working with a template, and I chose this one (which is the default) because of the banner images, drop-down menus and a few other items. Some other templates have other strengths, such as cleaner type (and links that are not underlined but appear as a different color, which I really prefer). I'm hoping to find a way to change some of those things within this framework, but I'm not sure how successful that will be.

Is the wording clear? The word I'm especially curious about now and which features heavily into the site is "contributions." I want this to be as open-ended as possible, so people can send in a piece of writing about their thoughts on the state of their block, their dream for a stronger neighborhood center, a report on transit elsewhere, a photo journal, whatever. I want a word that sums this all up. My one concern with "contributions" is that I don't want it to be mistaken for a request for donations and have people skip over the page that should be the most important feature. That's one reason I've grouped "News & Contributions" together. I can't think of a better word at the moment.

Also, what do people think of the graphics of the maps? Google doesn't give you a ton of flexibility, and I tried to use colors that closely match the colors on the city's zoning maps (green for B-1 and so on). I think those read okay, but I also wanted to show areas that I feel should be rezoned to something more appropriate, so those are shown in the same colors but lighter. Do they read okay?

Anyway, as things get updated and as you think of things, let me know your thoughts.

02-26-2011, 02:32 PM
Visuals are key. Cities are visual works of art, and the site should be, too. Just my opinion for a site which seems aimed at inspiring interest in bettering Manch as much as providing the info to do it.

Also, if you have guest posters, I'd like to be one.

02-27-2011, 06:51 PM
Agree entirely on the visuals.

And my hope and intention for the site is to feature guest posters prominently. I hope to serve more as an editor/publisher/administrator and occasional poster, but to have most of the posts be guest submissions from residents, city officials and developers, and people from outside the region with experience and expertise. I'll have to see how everything goes, but I'm hoping also to get a few regular contributors. As a land planning lawyer and someone actively engaged in promoting a more urban built environment in northern New England's other major city, you'd definitely be someone with experience and expertise to offer. I'm just getting in touch with some city officials and others already engage in the topic in Manchester, and I want to get the site together a bit more before doing too many posts, but if you want to suggest any topics or anything you want to post, that would be great.

02-27-2011, 06:59 PM
sure sure I didn't mean right away or anything...just something to keep in mind if you are looking for contributors down the line. I know it's always interesting to read outsider perspectives on portland. Just know that I am interested in being a contributing write if/when the right topic about Manchester comes up.

03-02-2011, 01:23 PM
The website is coming together, still working some things out and still need to add a lot of information, but I think it's in pretty good shape at this point. I changed the template and I think overall the appearance is much sharper. I've also been adding more visuals throughout, and will use visuals as icons for some links (such as all the Ideas series). Let me know what you think of the content and layout so far.

LivableMHT (http://livablemht.org/)

03-02-2011, 09:15 PM
Looking good in the neighborhood!

03-02-2011, 10:10 PM
Hey, what about the Manchester new police, trash and other municpal building complex. Info and that is scarce and I have not heard of any news on that altely, hope that is still going to be done. Last I heard from the economic development in Manch it was.

And gotta promote the site somehow.

03-23-2011, 04:46 PM
The site is still under construction, but it's getting to a point where I'm feeling ready to formally roll it out and get the word out about it.

I've also begun a new series, Livable/Unlovable, based on the Like/Dislike at Greater City: Providence. It will comment on projects, proposals, policy, etc that is either good (Livable) or bad (Unlovable) from a livability/urban development viewpoint.


Unfortunately, the first post in the series is Unlovable: West Side library branch threatened (http://livablemht.org/2011/03/23/unlovable-west-side-library-branch-threatened/).

M. Brown
03-23-2011, 08:41 PM
I like.

12-30-2011, 02:18 PM
I've just opened LivableMHT's Urban Livability Awards (http://livablemht.org/2011/12/30/urban-livability-awards-survey-now-open-for-voting/) to voting. It's a short, 26-question "best of"-style survey to name the most livable aspect of Manchester, as well as those that still need work. Please take a few minutes to vote if you can. There's also a link to a map showing the locations of nominees and information on many of them if you're unfamiliar with an of the categories.