SNHU's new look unveiled with new sign in Millyard

Jan. 25—Southern New Hampshire University is showing off its new look in a highly visible rooftop spot off Interstate 293 in Manchester.

Its new logo, part of a rebranding effort begun last summer, replaced the old sign off Commercial Street in the Millyard last week. The rebranding is slowly being rolled out, according to a university spokesperson.

The university also showed further commitment to the city in buying 37 S. Commercial St. for $9 million and the parking garage at 75 S. Commercial St. for $45 million in October. The sale was accelerated as part of a lease-buy agreement, according to SNHU President Paul LeBlanc.

"We've always said that we have a firm commitment to Manchester as our hometown," he said.

The decision to buy the 190,000-square-foot mill building and garage was made before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, LeBlanc said.

"Like everybody else, we are trying to sort out how much space we actually need," LeBlanc said. "Like many other large employers, a good portion of our workforce is fully remote."

The Langer Place Mill was once home to a mix of businesses, including The Bike Barn and Bare Knuckle Murphy's boxing gymnasium.

The six-story garage, which has capacity for 1,700 vehicles, opened in July 2019. The school at first leased the garage from Lansing Melbourne Group, who built the garage in two years for about $50 million.

LeBlanc said the garage has plenty of open spots, and he lamented the impact on downtown merchants whose businesses SNHU employees once frequented. In all, nearly 65% of the university's employees have decided to work fully remote. Some are hybrid.

"On some days there are probably hundreds, not thousands of people," LeBlanc said. "That is a big change."

SNHU moved some offices out of leased space at 1230 Elm St. in December 2021 and moved information technologies, human resources, communications and legal departments to the Millyard building. The building at 1230 Elm St. has been pitched as housing.

The university is adding more conference rooms and creative spaces for those who work hybrid. He said teams of people who work remotely will gather in the space.

"It has allowed us to rethink the space," LeBlanc said. "We were struggling pre-pandemic trying to figure out how we were going to squeeze so many people into the space."

Before COVID, SNHU had more than 2,000 workers in the Millyard and downtown. Its educated workforce contributes significantly to Manchester's cultural life, said Jodie Nazaka, the city's economic development director.

"While more than half of the SNHU employees remain fully remote, trends are showing that many workers are opting for the best of both worlds with hybrid environments," she said.

She's confident the city will begin to see an uptick of workers "returning to our sidewalks over time."

The mill building and garage brought in approximately $618,500 in taxes last year, according to tax records. The school has not asked for an exemption, according to Robert Gagne, chairman of the city's assessors office.

The school paid $352,035 in taxes for its River Road campus in Manchester and received a $150,000 exemption for its dorms and dining hall.

The SNHU Arena features the university's new logo on its website but has yet to replace the exterior signs on the building.

SNHU's sign isn't the only new one atop Millyard buildings: A United Therapeutics sign replaced the Autodesk's at 100 Commercial St. as the biotechnology company takes over the entire building. The logo features lungs with a blinking heart shape in the middle.

The university designed the logo in-house using feedback from faculty, staff, students and alumni, according to a website dedicated to the new look. It is designed to represent a "diverse, innovative, mission-driven university dedicated to increasing the amount of equity, opportunity and hope in the world."

As for the design, the traditional quill "evolved to convey more dimension, color, depth and movement."

The shield was taken from the university seal.

"Over the past 90 years, we've reimagined and reinvented what education looks like for students at home, on campus, at work, in the military, and across the globe," the website reads.

"We felt it was time to welcome the next evolution of SNHU with a refreshed look that represents our continued commitment to our mission and to always innovating, growing and evolving to meet the needs of our students."