Concord stays event permits on Main Street during 2015 construction
Concord is not issuing permits for events that would take place between March and December 2015 in the downtown core of Main Street, meaning popular events such as Rock ’N Race and Market Days could need a new home next year.
Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development, said the decision is due to anticipated construction of the Main Street project. He recently informed the Concord City Council and the state, which oversees events on the State House lawn, of the change.
“We’re holding off right now on that section of Main Street until we get more clarity in the construction program,” Baia said.
Gene Blake, health and licensing officer, said his office staff have begun contacting the organizers of major downtown events. The construction could affect events or demonstrations planned for the city plaza in front of the State House or on any part of Main Street between Pleasant and Centre streets.
Concord will work with anyone who requests a permit for that area to plan around construction or to find an alternative location, Blake said.
“It’s just something they have to put up with this year,” Blake said. “We will do our best to find other locations. We will do our best to make them happy.”
City staff are still negotiating with a contractor to come up with the scope and price of the downtown redesign, and the council will need to approve those details before construction can begin.
“We’re trying to give people notice now so they can make accommodations. . . . At this point, we just think it would be too premature for us to say, ‘Yes, go ahead, we’ll grant you a permit,’ ” Baia said.
Even if work begins in the next few months, Concord officials have promised that this summer’s major events – such as Intown Concord’s Market Days in July – won’t be disturbed by construction. The city already has “a boatload of permits issued for 2014,” Blake said.
In order to host a large event on city property, the organizer usually has to contact the city at least a month in advance to begin the paperwork and planning. For a smaller event or demonstration, the deadline is usually two weeks before the proposed date.
“We don’t like to refuse anyone,” Blake said.
Sharon Sweet, events manager for Concord Hospital, hasn’t yet finished counting the money raised from last week’s Rock ’N Race. She’s already concerned, however, about how the permits decision will affect next year’s race.
Rock ’N Race traditionally starts on North Main Street in front of the State House. This year, nearly 6,600 runners and walkers participated. Sweet said she hopes she will be able to simply reroute the race, but she hasn’t yet discussed the 2015 event with the city.
“I would like to think they’ll give us primary consideration since we do raise money for Payson Center for Cancer Care,” Sweet said.
Intown Concord also sponsors seasonal events with downtown businesses, such as Halloween Howl in October and Midnight Merriment in December, that could be disrupted as well.
Liza Poinier, operations manager for the nonprofit, said she also hopes Intown Concord can still host those events despite construction next year.
“We’re hopeful that we will be able to work with the city and the selected contractor to have our signature events in some fashion, whether that be new timing or modified location,” she said. “The thing that I am trying to keep in mind is flexibility because we certainly want to keep bringing people downtown for fun community events.”
Without any details about when and where the construction will take place, however, Poinier said it’s hard to know what can and can’t happen downtown next year.
“I think everyone needs more information. . . . Once the project is under way and we have a better sense of the scope of work and where the work will be taking place, during what time periods, we’ll be able to figure things out a little better,” she said.
Poinier said she’s looking forward to the end result of the Main Street project – and she hopes residents can still visit downtown for events and other activities during construction.
“We really hope that it won’t mean a summer without parties,” Poinier said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)