The Manchester Selectboard and the Manchester School District Directors are holding a joint meeting at the Manchester Elementary Middle School (80 Memorial Avenue) in the Jackie Parks Room on Tuesday, November 29, 2016 starting at 6:30 PM to discuss a proposed plan to reconfigure and reconstruct the public infrastructure around the Manchester Elementary School owned by the Town of Manchester and the Manchester School District.

The proposed Project, still in the preliminary stages of development, may include (but is not limited to): relocation and reconfiguration of public roadways; reconstruction and construction of sidewalks; installation of street lighting; relocation of public parking facilities; relocation of playgrounds; construction of designated drop-off and pick-up areas; reconstruction and realignment of athletic fields; and other landscaping and streetscaping elements. Residents, parents, students, business owners and other interested parties are strongly encouraged to attend this public meeting.

The proposed preliminary Project comes from a collaboration between staff of the Manchester Elementary Middle School and the Town of Manchester.

Click here to view the Existing Conditions.

Click here to view the Proposed Project.

Below is a description of the major elements of the Project:

Realignment of Memorial Avenue

The Project includes the relocation of Memorial Avenue away from MEMS. The intersection of Memorial Avenue and School Street moves west (towards Bonnet Street) in order to create a dedicated recess area and drop-off area in front of MEMS. The Maplefield’s curb cut onto Memorial Avenue would be closed to increase safety at the intersection of Main Street and Memorial Avenue and allow for the construction of a new sidewalk along the western side of Memorial Avenue. The existing Memorial Avenue, just north of the Habitat for Humanity building would be capped off and turned into a drop-off area with a turnaround.

Creation of Dedicated Drop-Off Zone

As noted above, the Project recommends a new dedicated drop-off area just south of the main entrance to MEMS. This is designed so that children do not have to cross the road to access the main entrance of MEMS and the new recess area. Drop-off might also be allowed in the parking spaces on the north side of the Memorial Avenue parking lot during drop-off and pick-up hours. A sidewalk along the northern edge of the Memorial Avenue parking lot would allow children to safely access the main entrance to MEMS.

The bus drop-off area has been reconfigured to isolate bus drop-off from other vehicles. Currently, the bus drop-off area and access to the main MEMS parking lot are along the same corridor. Under the proposed Project, non-bus traffic would be prohibited from the new bus drop-off area. A one-way drive that circles the School Street parking lot would allow buses to exit the MEMS property. The drop-off area for school buses is approximately 170 feet long, or long enough for three full-size school buses.

Increased & Improved Parking

The Project includes the construction of two parking lots with a combined 150 parking spaces (including new spaces along Memorial Avenue) compared to 138 current spaces.

Currently, the MEMS parking lot is located north of the school. During weekends and in the summer, the lot is largely unused. The configuration of the parking lot is awkward, resulting in wasted space and the surface is in need of repaving in the near future. The parking lot is also sandwiched between two of the three athletic fields. The Project recommends removing the parking lot, using the grinding as a base for the new School Street and Memorial Avenue parking lots, and the conversion of the space into two dedicated athletic fields.

At the same time, the Town-owned parking lot behind Rite Aid is slated to be sold to help finance the Project. The size and shape of the parking lot does not allow for an efficient layout and the asphalt surface is in serious need of repaving.

The Project recommends the construction of 142 parking spaces in two new parking lots. The southern portion of the field across the street from MEMS would be utilized as a parking lot for MEMS and historic Main Street. The “Memorial Avenue Parking Lot” will have 73 parking spaces. This configuration and location of the Memorial Avenue parking lot is designed to serve MEMS and the downtown business community.

The space north of MEMS (currently the location of the basketball court) will be utilized for a second parking lot. The “School Street Parking Lot” will have 69 parking spaces. The Project also includes 11 formalized parking spaces along Memorial Avenue in front of Cota and Cota and the Habitat for Humanity building.

Streetscape, Landscape and Lighting

The front and side of MEMS is current lighted by streetlights provided by Green Mountain Power using existing utility poles. As a result, lighting around MEMS is inadequate for night-time activities like concerts and basketball games. The Project includes the installation of standalone streetlights along Memorial Avenue, School Street, and the Memorial Avenue parking lot.

The Project also includes the removal of 5 dying (dead) trees in front of MEMS along Memorial Avenue and the planting of 7 new trees, 5 trees between the drop-off area and the Memorial Avenue parking lot, trees along the newly constructed Memorial Avenue on the western side of the project limits and trees in front of the main entrance to MEMS to create a shaded sitting area for students during recess.

Sidewalks and Crosswalks

The Project includes significant improvements to the crosswalks at the intersection of Main Street and Memorial Avenue. The Project includes the elimination of three parking spaces on Main Street in front of 5053, which cause a significant blind spot for drivers heading south on Main Street and pedestrians crossing Main Street and the elimination of two parking spaces in front of 5036 Main Street and construction of a small plaza that creates a better gateway into downtown Manchester. As a result, crosswalk bump-outs allow pedestrians to be more visible and lessens the time that pedestrians are in the traveled way.

The Project improves the sidewalk along the eastern side of Memorial Avenue, replacing it with an 8 foot wide dual use (bikes and pedestrians) sidewalk along Memorial Avenue, in front of the school (from Main Street to School Street). Currently there is a 4 and one-half foot sidewalk, which is inadequate for its current use and does not accommodate bicyclists as well as a new five foot sidewalk along the western side of Memorial Avenue from the new Memorial Avenue parking lot, along the storefronts of Memorial Avenue to the intersection of Memorial Avenue and Main Street and the rest of the Town’s sidewalk network.

The Project also includes a new five foot wide sidewalk from MEMS to Bonnet Street (south side of the road) and a new crosswalk from School Street to the western side of Bonnet Street. Currently there is no sidewalk along School Street or crosswalk from School Street across Bonnet Street.

Lastly, the Project also provides a better connection to the Dana L. Thompson and Riley Rink walking path from Main Street, School Street, and MEMS.

Athletic Fields

Currently, MEMS utilizes three fields for athletics: Bowen Field, the so-called Front Field (across the street from MEMS on Memorial Avenue) and the Back Field (behind MEMS). Bowen Field is 110 yards by 50 yards; the Front Field is 80 yards by 50 yards; and the Back Field is 60 yards by 40 yards. US Youth Soccer recommends at least 100 yards by 50 yards for middle school teams. The Front Field is located at the corner of two Town-owned roadways (Memorial Avenue and School Street). Bowen Field is used for recess activities, which creates significant wear-and-tear, including major holes in and around the goalmouths. The Back Field is uneven, too small and one of the goals backs up to the parking lot, with errant shots causing damage to parked cars. The shed located in the northeast corner of the MEMS property would be relocated north of the School Street parking lot.

The Project includes two full-size athletic fields behind MEMS. One of the new fields is 100 yards by 60 yards and the second is 100 by 50 yards, both adequate for middle school soccer and field hockey games and practices.

Dedicated Recess Area

Currently, MEMS recess activities are scattered around the MEMS’ property. The Project centralizes recess (morning and lunch-time) activities in the northern portion of the Front Field. The area includes a new basketball court, 50 yards by 30 yard athletic field (with smaller 6 x 18 foot kid-friendly soccer goals), new playground (fundraised by Friends of MEMS), four 4-square courts, and trees, along with benches and picnic tables for socializing near the main entrance to MEMS. For safety code reasons, the Pre-K and Kindergarten playground would be behind MEMS in a contained area (fenced). Relocating the recess area to the northern side of the Front Field will allow the recess area to double as a community, neighborhood park in the summer and on weekends.

Questions? Contact John P. O’Keefe, Town Manager, at j.okeefe@manchester-vt.gov or 802-362-1313, option 2.