Concord Main St. project’s future still up in air
The Concord City Council has tabled its decision on the future of the Main Street project for another two weeks.
The council could have voted last night to approve nearly $500,000 in impact and water fees to help pay for the downtown redesign. But after more than three hours of public testimony, the group postponed voting to its July 30 meeting.
That delay will allow Concord more time to consider alternatives to the $10.22 million design as it was proposed by city staff – and to find the money to pay for them.
Those alternatives include adding colored uplighting to the trees that would line the new Main Street.
“We’ve had several people say, ‘You’ve got to make it more transformative.’ ” Mayor Jim Bouley said. “We’ve had several people say, ‘You’ve got to do less.’ ”
In its original form, the Main Street project would redesign and rebuild 12 blocks of the downtown corridor. The city has projected its cost would be $10.35 million, which included about $7.8 million for general construction and $2.5 million to bury utilities on South Main Street. A $4.71 million federal grant would cover part of the cost.
A committee of 17 people from the community hosted a series of public meetings to solicit input on the project. Concord officials had hoped to break ground last fall, but in each of two previous attempts to bid the construction, the city rejected a proposal that was almost double the budget for the job.
So in February, the city council gave staff and consultant engineering firm McFarland Johnson permission to use an alternative bidding process that allows for more negotiation. Last month, city staff emerged from those negotiations with the proposal discussed last night by the council.
As written, that proposal would set a $10.22 million budget for construction. That includes the $4.71 million federal grant, $560,000 in federal tax credits, more than $500,000 from impact fees and the water fund, and $2.39 million in city bonds. City staff has also suggested using $2.5 million previously earmarked for burying utilities on South Main Street for general construction instead.
Because all of those dollars have already been set aside, city staff has said Concord would not need to bond any additional money to pay for the project.
At last night’s meeting, the council postponed its votes on using about $348,700 in traffic impact fees and $152,780 in water fees for the Main Street project. Those items will be added to the agenda for July 30, when the council was already scheduled to vote on whether to use $2.5 million from the Sears Block TIF District for general construction instead of burying utility lines.
The council will meet again July 30 at 7 p.m. in council chambers. For an archive of the city’s reports on this project to date, visit concordmainstreetproject.com
Other notes from the council meeting:
∎ With the council’s blessing last night, Concord will apply for one grant and accept two others. The city will submit an application for a $345,000 Community Development Block Grant on behalf of Independent Living Concord. The nonprofit hopes to put the money toward a $2.3 million project to renovate the former Capital Offset building at 181 N. Main St. into housing for 10 to 12 adults with developmental or learning disabilities. The council also accepted a federal grant from the Department of Justice for about $27,800 for the city’s police department, and a nearly $372,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy new protective breathing equipment for the city’s firefighters. The city is required to match that grant with about $92,000.
∎ The council approved minor changes to a handful parking ordinances in Concord. Those changes include prohibiting on-street parking on the east side of Fruit Street for 65 feet to the north and south of Industrial Drive, due to an increase in the traffic exiting the state office complex. And in order to improve safety around Millbrook and Broken Ground elementary schools, on-street parking will no longer be allowed on both sides of Curtisville Road from Dominique Drive to Frost Street. That ban will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, from September through June annually.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)
What they’re saying
The Concord City Council heard more than three hours of testimony last night from the Main Street project’s fans and opponents alike. Below is a sampling of their input:
“The Chamber has been and remains supportive overall of this project. We recognize that not everyone agrees with all the specific recommendations, but I can tell you that everyone that I’ve spoken to about this project believes that there is a need for investment in downtown.”
Tim Sink, Chamber of Commerce president
On daytime construction:
“It’s very, very hard for me to support the project thinking that we might not survive it.”
Pam Peterson, owner of Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co. on North Main Street
“Downtown functions fairly well. It’s not broken. It’s mostly tired. . . . We certainly need that injection of capital right now and to really rejuvenate and help spur economic development for the city.”
Mark Ciborowski, downtown property owner
On the project’s goal of a more accessible Main Street:
“I asked some of the individuals who have no sight at all and who live in Concord about how it is, how easy it is for somebody to walk down Main Street right in the area that you’re talking about without having any obstruction. I’m referring to users who are longtime cane users who are very adept at navigating the downtown, and they have told me it is very difficult.”
Sheila Zakre, Concord attorney and board member of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind
On reducing the amount of project dollars coming from the private sector:
“I would say that’s not a partnership. I would say that’s an abusive relationship.”
Roy Schweiker, Concord resident
“I’m here in support of this project. I think it should go forward. I think it’s vital for the future of our merchants and, beyond any consideration for them, it’s vital for the economic vitality of Concord. It will help protect my investment.”
Steve Duprey, downtown property owner and chairman of the city’s Main Street advisory committee
“I am here before you tonight to oppose what I call the ‘Main Street madness project.’ ”
Robert Washburn, Concord resident