The new six-story parking garage provides 1,700 new parking spaces for Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) employees, filling a crucial need for the university as it continues to grow in downtown Manchester. The total precast concrete system provided SNHU with a parking structure that met the aesthetic requirements of the area as well as the rigorous structural criteria within.
Situated across the street from Minor League Baseball’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the building complements the neighborhood, with elements of traditional brick masonry reminiscent of the historic mills. The west facade, overlooking the Merrimack River features perforated metal decorative panels with embossed images, providing a unique and striking visual effect as seen from I-293 across the river.
The precast structure was built to ease the lack of parking throughout the entire Millyard and help achieve long-term development goals of downtown Manchester.
Prior to the new parking garage, the site was a surface lot, which forced nearly 1,000 SNHU employees to park in satellite lots throughout the Millyard and take shuttle buses to get to their destinations.
During the 19th century, the Merrimack River was lined with mills and millions of square feet of manufacturing space, turning Manchester into the largest textile producer in the world. The Millyard’s iconic red brick buildings are now filled with everything from condos, restaurants and offices.
Since the parking garage is the first new building in the Millyard in 122 years and given the historic nature of the region, rigorous environmental site assessment, geotechnical investigation and historical research were conducted before breaking ground. During construction vibration monitoring was done on surrounding buildings.
Construction of the new SNHU Millyard Parking Garage necessitated careful planning and execution throughout the process. The tight site abuts South Commercial Street, the Merrimack River and the Langer Place Mill limiting space for construction. With no room for staging or laydown, just-in-time precast concrete construction was the solution. The phased construction schedule was coordinated by Harvey Construction Corporation, the construction manager on the project.
Construction began in April of 2018 and site preparation uncovered the history of the city’s industrial past. Workers uncovered remnants of the old mills during construction, including an old penstock — a large flume-like device used to provide water power for a mill on that site generations ago.
The area’s history of railroad and industrial use left it with a primitive street network that limited transportation of the precast components. It was at this point the carefully orchestrated plans became a vital part of the process. The precast concrete products were fabricated off site, at Blakeslee Prestress in Branford, CT and transported by truck to a staging yard near the site. Trucks were then jockeyed to the site where Blakeslee Prestress used a 440 ton crane to erect the structure. Despite the site constraints and the New England winter, precast erection progressed quickly and installation was finished in late January, 2019. By moving the schedule forward precast helped ensure project completion months ahead of schedule in July 2019.
As there was limited laydown on the site, the 1,346 pieces of the “total precast” structure were delivered just-in-time to be erected. In an effort to coordinate the staged schedule, Harvey Construction was driving piles in one sector, while building precast bays closest to the river.
The loading dock section was over an existing rainwater detention system which prohibited use of the crane in that portion of the garage. That limitation determined the size of the crane needed for the project, according to Rob Prunier, Harvey Construction Corporation.
Despite its massive size, the parking structure blends in with the historic neighborhood. The project architect, Built Form of Chicago, took care to detail a façade that fits perfectly with its surroundings. The brick on the south and east sides works in concert with the Millyard, while the west side along the river features a more contemporary feel, using perforated metal screening to harmonize with the natural surroundings. The brick was integral to the precast panels installed at the plant
Other details of the facade include brick window-supporting lintels and light fixtures inspired by nearby structures. In contrast, the precast framed stair and elevator towers feature contemporary vertical glass elements in the corners of the structure. The precast framed pedestrian bridge provides access to the Langer Building as part of the project scope.
In contrast to its historic past, the garage offers EV charging stations for electric vehicles and features a solar carport on the roof of the garage.