By Ken Johnson, Staff Writer

MANCHESTER — When students attending The University of New Hampshire at Manchester return from Spring Break, they will be seeing a new look for the commuter college.

The main location for UNH-M has been located at 400 Commercial St. and utilizing one floor of 88 Commercial St.. known as the Pandora Building. Over spring break, the college will be moving from the 400 Commercial St. location into five of the Pandora Building’s six floors.

“This is a historic property, a landmark building for Manchester, the Merrimack Valley at one of the busiest intersections in Manchester and in southern New Hampshire,” UNH-M interim dean J. Michael Hickey said.

The Pandora Building was originally built in 1850 for Manchester Print Works by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company.  It holds its name from Pandora Industries, which purchased the building in 1950 and manufactured Pandora sweaters there until it ceased operations in Manchester in 1990.  The building has been altered several times since incarnation.  In 2012, the building was modified to be a green building, utilizing rooftop solar panels, carpet made from recycled soda bottles, a rainwater collection and reuse system and efficient new heating, cooling and ventilation systems.

“While the fact that the Pandora mill is LEED certified is certainly a major advantage for the Manchester campus, I don’t believe it was a key factor in the decision,” Kim Wall, director of Marketing & Communications at UNH-M, said.  “There is limited real estate of this size and quality in downtown Manchester.”

The move is part of a blueprint based on recommendations from the Heron Report commissioned by University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees, Hickey said.  The blueprint is designed to transform UNH-M by introducing new academic programs to the market and refine existing programs with an eye to the market and student requirements.  The board of trustees determined that there was a better opportunity for the necessary growth and expansion at the Pandora Building, where the college will now be located under one roof.

“As a commuter campus, it was important for us to expand our space to be more welcoming, better accessible, I think to provide greater comfort for our commuter students, better food services, frankly better technology access,” Hickey said.  “And we are able to accomplish all of that in this build out of 88 Commercial St.”

Faculty and staff worked with the architect to design the new space that UNH-M will be inhabiting, Hickey said.  Construction started on Sep. 22 and will be finished prior to the move during spring break.  The faculty, staff, and students helped select furniture for the public spaces and for the classrooms.

“So this is not a campus created by one individual, but rather the entire community and that’s what will make this a very special place,” Hickey said.

“The new building is definitely a mystery right now to a lot of the students,” Kristin Boelzner, a junior English major at UNH-M, said.  Boelzner has been blogging about the new building and the move for UNH-M.

“It will be a very different campus environment from what we currently enjoy at 400 Commercial St.,” Hickey said.  “It will be more expansive, the light and the space will be very welcoming and we have really defined several significant spaces.”

“A lot of the students feel that it’s going to really transform how they interact with the school and resources in the school,” Boelzner said.  “They really feel like it is going to open up a lot of new opportunities for resource collaboration, for more time spent on campus and really since it’s a commuter campus it’s really going to cater to that commuter atmosphere and all the students that commute to the school.”

There will be an academic commons with library services, English as a Second Official Language, the Center for Academic Enrichment (the tutoring program) and the First Year Experience (a development opportunity to integrate students into student life).  The integration of all these learning opportunities into one space will allow easier access for students.

There is really no student social space at the current 400 Commercial St. space that UNH-M currently occupies, Boelzner said.

The new location corrects this; there will be a student commons, a large multipurpose room for student and public use, directly across from the academic commons.

The new location will also feature the Wildcat Cafe, run by UNH Dining Services.  Food at UNH-M was handled by The Granite State LunchBox, a vendor from the Manchester area.  The Wildcat Cafe will have prepared food, freshly made food, and a full Starbucks bar.  There is no venting for the cafe, which will limit what can be freshly made there.

“It will be very customer friendly with a much greater range of food options and beverage options,” Hickey said.

Seminar rooms, classrooms and laboratories have upgraded technology.  Remote teaching facilities, allowing for classes to be broadcast to other campuses, have been added to the building.

“We like to say that the city is our campus, and it truly is,” Boelzner said.

The new building is in a more central location and very visible from high traffic areas in Manchester, right off the highway by the Verizon Wireless Arena. It is around a variety of high profile businesses and hospitals.

“The opportunities for internships in Manchester is endless,” Hickey said.

“There is a lot more opportunity for growth within the degree programs that we have,” Boelzner said.

The grand opening of the new building will be on the evening of April 14 with UNH President Mark Huddleston  headlining the opening.

“The air about the school right now is just very anticipating, everyone is waiting to be in the new building everyone is very excited, and questions are now being answered and it’s something that I feel is going to really put UNH Manchester, if not the whole entire university, on a new level,” Boelzner said.  “It’s an opportunity for more collaboration with Durham and it’s an opportunity with more collaboration with the community that we’re in, so I think this is a great opportunity for everybody.”