MANCHESTER – Ever since a severe thunderstorm with strong, gusty winds ripped part of a wall off the old bowling alley behind Manchester’s shopping center on Depot Street, people have been wondering: will it meet the wrecking ball? Or is there perhaps a future use for the 10,000 square foot structure?

Kerry McCormack, development manager for owner Crosspoint Associates, said a structural assessment was taking place this week to determine if it could be stripped down to its steel skeleton and reused.

From the outside, a passer-by seeing half of the missing south wall might assume the long-vacant property has a bleak outlook. But McCormack said the steel frame appears to be in solid shape – and could withstand further use if the roof and walls can be replaced.

The question is, if the walls and roof are removed, will the frame remain in good condition until another use can be found? That’s what engineers are figuring out, and McCormack said he hopes to have his answer later this month or early May.

“We want to keep it alive until someone comes along who can marry building with use,” McCormack said. “We would have had to redo the skin and the roof anyway. The concern is that if you remove all that, does it compromise the structure? That’s why we ask a structural engineer to take a look.

McCormack and Manchester City Manager John O’Keefe also discussed whether the structure could be part of the city’s effort to turn three adjacent city properties, currently leased by Manchester Designer Outlets, into affordable housing units.

“We’ve reached out to them and there’s interest in this place,” O’Keefe said. “He would still face one of the same problems, though – it’s in a floodplain.”

In February 2018, a fire in the long-vacant building raised concerns that another fire could threaten the safety of intruders and first responders. In the days that followed, the city notified Crosspoint that it had to secure or demolish the building to comply with the ordinance. Crosspoint has chosen to keep it and secure it.

A snow fence had been installed around the structure before the March 7 storm, which brought gusts of more than 60 miles per hour and literally ripped off part of the south wall of the building. Some time later, Crosspoint also installed a chain-link fence, spanning most of the southern perimeter.

“We try to be patient – we want them to make the right decision for the property,” O’Keefe said. “At the moment it seems secure. It’s safer than it was in the past with a fence around it.

McCormack said the old bowling alley had been part of the plaza’s redevelopment plans from the start.

“It’s 10,000 square feet that was part of the property when we bought it,” he said. “We always thought that would somehow make it part of long-term ownership.”

A movie theater or fitness center have been considered possible uses in the past, and the company remains open to the possibilities, he said.

Crosspoint intended to demolish the western end of the plaza and build a new one on the opposite side. Plans included expanded space for Price Chopper (or another supermarket, when Price Chopper owners Golub Corp. pulled out of the project).

When those plans hit a snag in the Law 250 permitting process, the Waltham, Massachusetts developer went in a different direction, bringing in TJ Maxx as a tenant and keeping Price Chopper in the current space. .

The reshuffle ousted Village Picture Shows, leaving the town without a movie theater. But McCormack said the bowling alley was considered a potential site for a new theater, as well as a fitness room or other uses.

Why not just start over? Crosspoint would rather try to work with what’s there than scrap it, McCormack said.

“What Crosspoint does — and what we’re really good at — is repurpose existing structures,” he said. “It would be easy to scrape up a building and put it in a landfill and start over. We try to be environmentally sensitive. We try to be sensitive to construction costs. And ultimately, we’re responsible for directing that for the investors who invest in that property. »