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Downtown: Bold ideas for Concord’s backside

A “Hollywood-like” sign that says “Concord.” A bridge across Interstate 93 and the Merrimack River that connects downtown with the Gully Hill conservation land. A replica of the Old Man of the Mountain, made from recycled material and displayed as public art.

These ideas were among those brainstormed last week to improve the backside of Concord. More than 50 people attended the charrette, hosted by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce.

The result: A long list of creative ways to improve the city’s appearance, add public art or guide visitors to Concord’s best attractions. Some of them could come to fruition as the “Concord’s New Front Door” initiative moves forward.

Participants agreed that motorists passing by on I-93 don’t necessarily learn what downtown Concord has to offer. Once visitors get off the highway, it isn’t always clear how to reach downtown attractions.

“We could make a better impression than we do,” Chris Carley told those

assembled at the Grappone Conference Center on Wednesday night.

Carley, a local architect, is leading the initiative. No ideas were ruled out at last week’s meeting; Carley said he’s still “digesting” the information. His committee will meet this week to organize the ideas and choose some to present at a second meeting.

“People can have a chance to critique and compare,” he said. “And generally, we can get an impression of what ideas seem to be appealing, and what don’t.”

At the beginning of the meeting, City Planner Gloria McPherson provided a series of photos for “inspiration.” After seeing cities around the world, participants went to work in five small groups, scribbling ideas on large sheets of paper and drawing plans on a map of Concord.

They wanted archways to bring people into the downtown area, signs informing visitors of Concord’s attractions and flags or banners near exits 13 and 14. One group decided Concord lacked a “unifying theme.”

Some ideas were bold, such as rebuilding the old Boston & Main Railroad Station. One group suggested building a canal to channel the Merrimack River into Terrill Park near Exit 13. That design has similarities to a 1996 study that proposed a canal on Storrs Street. McPherson presented images from that study at the start of last week’s event.

Other proposals focused on public art: Paint a mural on the back of the Capitol Shopping Center, or paint bright colors on the unsightly power substation behind the Ralph Pill Marketplace building.

Each of the five small groups suggested a focus on landscaping. The city could quickly improve its appearance from the highway with flowers or trees, they agreed. One group sketched a redesigned bridge connecting Exit 14 with Main Street. It had a green median strip and fewer traffic lanes.

Moving forward, Concord’s New Front Door will also have to coordinate with property owners and city officials.

Carley said the group’s next meeting isn’t scheduled yet, but he’s hoping to present ideas and receive feedback later this month or early in June.

Coffee in Chichester

Custom Kups has a new location.

Owner Tabatha Tobey is closing her North Main Street storefront May 25 and will reopen at the Chichester Commons shopping plaza on Route 4.

The North Main Street shop opened in 2011 to sell K-cups, or single-serve pods of coffee and teas for Keurig machines.

Tobey announced last month that she’s leaving Main Street because she isn’t getting enough business. Last week, she said she’s looking forward to the new location and plans to expand her K-cup selection.

There’s plenty of free parking, Tobey added, and she hopes customers will make the trip to her new store at 114 Dover Road.

“We truly value the loyalty that we have gotten over the last two years,” Tobey said.

Cleanup for canines

Robert Forsythe takes his dog to the Concord Dog Park in Terrill Park every day. But he and other dog park users have noticed the area isn’t always clean. So he’s asking other dog owners to join him Saturday to help clean up.

There’s an overflowing trash bin for dog waste, he said, and there is trash in the park and nearby parking lot.

“It’s gotten really messy,” he said.

Forsythe said he’ll bring his dog Mason, a beagle mix, with him. He hopes to meet other people and dogs at the park at 1 p.m.

Bark in the Park

A second event will be held for Concord’s canines on Saturday.

“Bark in the Park” in White Park is a fundraiser to bring a K-9 program to the Concord Police Department. The day will include demonstrations, competitions and educational offerings for dogs and their human companions, organizer Kim Murdoch said in a release.

Tickets will be sold on site for each booth or event, Murdoch said. For $25, dogs and their owners can participate in unlimited activities.

Murdoch is board chairwoman of the Concord Public Safety Foundation, the nonprofit that’s leading the event in hopes of getting a police dog for Concord. The department used to have its own dog, but the program was cut in 2006.

Police Chief John Duval told the Monitor in December that he wasn’t focusing on a police dog program, while Murdoch said she’s been talking with the police about it for several years.

Saturday’s event will be held in White Park from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Awards announced

The Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce announced its annual Pinnacle Award winners last week.

Red River Theatres won nonprofit of the year, according to a release from the chamber of commerce. Maria White, executive director of the New Hampshire Red Cross, which is based in Concord, won business leader of the year. Grappone Automotive Group of Bow is the business of the year, while Irish Electric Corp. of Hopkinton is the small business of the year.

The awards will be presented May 24. A volunteer of the year will also be awarded that day, though its recipient will not be revealed until the luncheon event.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

"Backside" is precisely the right word. Brings to mind the hind quarters of of...oh, I don't know...a baboon. Concord's backside was doomed when 1) the beautiful and historical railroad station was demolished replaced by the eyesore-on-opening-day Storrs Street plaza, and 2) it was decided to put I-93 on the west side of the river effectively cutting it off from downtown. The fix? Maybe the city could send a delegation to panhandle a freebie out of Christo.

Will somebody please tell me where Concord's "backside" is????

it is where all the liberals hang out

And this is what passes for intelligent argument among conservatives.

OH I KNOW!!!!! I think it must be in the vicinity of where that smell is always coming from when ever I drive up 93 into town!

You could always put a "detour" sign on I-93 every now and again. Not pretty, but effective.

Sorry, that was snarky..Just cleaning up the area would be a big improvement. Also, who is paying for this??

People are drawn to water. Look at the world’s population centers in proximity to water compared to the population densities in land. People just like to be by the water. I observe so many examples of citizens that have increased their visitation rate, business indices, positive opinion of their citizens and worth by maximizing their water resources. The river flowing through town is a tremendous asset on many levels and I hope the final plan includes maximizing this wonderful resource.

Marinas, waterfront restaurants, boardwalk, duck boats, rental boats paddle boats......it is call slight of hand - magicians do it all the time ....they get you to look one way to miss what is happening the other direction

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