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Downtown: As the contractor prepares to break ground on Main Street, downtown property owners consider individual snow-melt systems

Concord nixed a street-wide snow-melt system as part of the Main Street project, but property owners could still get heated sidewalks downtown.

On their own dime, of course.

Two days after the Concord City Council approved money for the Main Street redesign, the city postmarked letters to all downtown property owners along the nine-block length of the project. According to the letter, each building owner has the option to pay Concord’s contractor to construct a snow-melt system outside his or her property while Main Street is under construction. The city would have no financial responsibility; each system would be maintained and powered by the individual business owner.

“The responsibility for the upkeep of the system would be on the property owner,” Deputy City Manager for Development Carlos Baia said.

Because the general contractor, Severino Trucking Inc., will break ground on the sidewalks next spring, building owners don’t have time to hem and haw over the decision. Here’s the timeline outlined in that letter:

∎ By Sept. 1, 2014: In order to participate, building owners need to submit a letter of interest and a $5,000 deposit to cover design work by this deadline.

∎ By Nov. 1, 2014: The contractor will present each interested building owner with a design and cost estimate for his or her snow-melt system. Any deposit funds not used in developing the design will go toward the bill for building the system. If the property owner decides not to go forward with a heated sidewalk system, any remaining money would then be returned.

∎ By Dec. 1, 2014: Final payment is due.

So far, only Concord developer Steve Duprey has expressed interest. When he built the Smile building at 49 S. Main St., he included a gas-powered snow-melt system at a total cost of about $25,000.

“We think it has a very good payback,” Duprey said. “First, everyone loved the fact that they’re not slipping and sliding. Coming into the building it’s dry. It’s much less wear and tear on the building. So we found it to be a great amenity.”

So when the Main Street project tears up the sidewalk outside his Love building at 45 S. Main St., he’s going to install a similar system just down the road. Even if no other building owners buy in, Duprey said he will go forward with his own heated sidewalks.

“If you don’t do it now, you won’t have the opportunity to do it for the next 20 years,” Duprey said.

Other building owners, however, are not as sure. Downtown property owner Mark Ciborowski said he would consider it – and hear from other building owners. His family owns a handful of buildings along the project’s length, including Phenix Hall and the CVS building.

“In order for it to be really effective, you have to have a nice continuous run” of heated sidewalks, Ciborowski said.

Isolated snow-melt systems already exist in Concord. Those include a system at the Capitol Center for the Arts and another outside the building that houses Charter Trust Co. and Zoe & Co. Professional Bra Fitters. But Ciborowski was skeptical.

“If you’ve got a store or a building here but the rest of it’s not done, it’s nice,” he said. “But it doesn’t have the real effect.”

State Sen. Andy Sanborn owns two downtown properties, but only one could get heated sidewalks. The Draft sports bar at 67 S. Main St. sits on one of three blocks cut from the project to save money, but Sanborn also owns the building at 27 S. Main St. that used to house Gibson’s Bookstore.

Sanborn has long been an opponent of the Main Street project, and he said he would only consider building a snow-melt system if the city helped cover his costs to heat the sidewalks.

“If they’d let me offset my taxes by the cost to install it and the cost to operate it, I’d be happy to have that conversation,” Sanborn said.

Otherwise, no way.

Construction on utilities and improvements to Eagle Square will begin this fall, and the project is set for completion in 2016.

Bicentennial Square concerts

Market Days is over, but Stephanie Zinser is still hearing about how much its attendees enjoyed the program of live music in Bicentennial Square. From her counter at nearby True Brew Barista, she has a vision of more concerts in the square.

“One of the bigger things we hear when we do these outdoor concerts is, ‘Why don’t you do this more often?’ ” Zinser said.

So she and her husband, Rob, are going to try, but she needs some help. Each concert would cost between $1,500 and $2,500.

“It’s expensive,” Zinser said.

The Zinsers are looking for sponsors and donations to a monthly concert series in the square outside True Brew. They would hope to feature local bands such as Pat and the Hats, Zinser said, and the concerts would be free.

“You can throw down a blanket and bring a picnic,” she said.

Zinser said the first concert could happen as early as this month. To learn about becoming a sponsor or to donate to the concert series, email Zinser at truebrewbarista@gmail.com.

“It’s definitely something people need,” Zinser said. “It brings the community together.”

One more party

It’s not over ’til it’s over. Intown Concord is hosting a Market Days wrap-up party at the Barley House on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

The event will be a closing celebration of the festival, but it will also be a chance for merchants, volunteers and vendors to offer their feedback on this year’s event.

“Intown Concord’s goals for the gathering are to celebrate the success of this year’s community event, and to solicit ideas and suggestions that will advance and improve the Market Days festival for 2015 and beyond,” the group’s newsletter read.

The Monitor is one of Intown Concord’s corporate sponsors. RSVP to the event or submit a comment on Market Days online at intownconcord.org.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story was edited to reflect the correct address of the building state Sen. Andy Sanborn owns on South Main Street.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

Legacy Comments4

Your right DL. The issues with downtown have nothing to do with the way it looks. The issue in my view is stores with small inventories that have to charge high prices to make a profit. That works in towns like Concord MA where you have a lot of wealth to support boutique stores. We also have a lot of hair salons, pizza joints etc, which means that all those places just share the profit till they cannot afford to at some point. This make over will sink those businesses that are barely holding on. An anchor store is a great idea, as is restaurants like Macaroni Grill that cater to reasonable prices for families. There is a reason why Olive Garden does so well, folks can actually afford to take a family out to eat there now and then.

Sanborn is a real winner.

The Concord Steam issues notwithstanding, a more pragmatic approach to Complete Streets might've been to START with the snowmelt system for all of Main Street. If that ate up the entire TIGER grant, than so be it. We're done. No reduction of lanes. No shoveling (and no 'Red Carpet Team' BS). No plowing. No elimination of parking spaces. No additional burden to Concord's taxpayers. Next, work on attracting some anchor stores on Main Street to get people downtown. All the banners, uplighting, planters, fake cobblestones, etc, is entirely unnecessary.

its amazing whats a great idea when someone else is paying for it..isnt it?

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