Concord residents weigh in on Main Street roundabout, maintenance
Concord residents voiced concerns last night about ongoing maintenance, a potential roundabout and aesthetics of the city’s Main Street redesign project.
More than 100 people attended a public forum at the Grappone Conference Center, providing praise and feedback about the latest designs for 12 blocks of Main Street. The city received a $4.71 million federal grant last year to redesign Main Street, and construction is scheduled to begin this fall.
After two hours of discussion, small groups of residents reported their opinions to the group. Among their feedback was a concern for continued maintenance after the project is complete, citing a lack of care for spaces like Bicentennial Square.
“There better be a plan to maintain those flowers and trees if you plant them because we don’t want them to die,” said Elaine Kellerman, speaking on behalf of her small group.
Many residents spoke against a potential roundabout at Pleasant and Main streets.
Some small groups took informal polls on a roundabout design and reported the majority of members were opposed to the idea. Both roundabout and traffic signal designs were on display last night, and the design team specifically asked residents for thoughts about the intersection.
“Some liked the roundabout design, some did not,” said Sarah Chaffee, reporting for her group.
Sheila Zakre said she finds the roundabout design impractical for a downtown business district. Zakre, who is legally blind, said she worries the design would reduce pedestrian safety by eliminating “walk” signals.
“You’re not necessarily going to have people yielding (to pedestrians) because people don’t yield now,” she said.
The Concord City Council will vote on all project designs. City engineers have not yet made a final recommendation about the Pleasant and Main street intersection, but presented the roundabout at a meeting last month.
Mayor Jim Bouley and several city councilors attended last night’s meeting. Every councilor will receive written reports from the group sessions before the council holds a hearing and votes on the designs next week.
The event, hosted by New Hampshire Listens, was the second large-scale forum about the city’s Main Street project. The first forum was held in November, as an advisory committee developed recommendations for the city council. Last night, residents weighed in on specific designs, and most participants shared high praise for the project. Many agreed it would make Concord a “destination” – a goal that drew wide support at the November forum.
The latest designs would reduce traffic to two lanes with a crossable center median, widen sidewalks and add landscaping and public art. Parallel parking is proposed along the west side of Main Street, with angled parking spaces along most of the east side. Designers have proposed closing Phenix Avenue to create a “pocket park” with fountains, seating and public art.
Residents had mixed reactions to the Phenix Avenue plans. Some said closing the small street to traffic could create accessibility problems or traffic issues, while others worried it would become a gathering place for unruly teenagers.
“I’m thinking: Perfect place for all sorts of bad things to happen,” Marilyn Pelletier said.
Christopher Carley said “it’s no great loss” to close the street. He hoped it could become an attractive gathering space.
After viewing proposed public art, benches and landscaping designs, Kathy Conners said she wasn’t sure if they fit into Concord’s historic downtown.
Chaffee’s group agreed.
“Some people wanted to make sure that we stuck with a historical look, there was an objection to some of the more contemporary designs,” Chaffee said.
Parking was also a concern last night; some participants spoke against parallel parking and a reduction in the number of spaces. Gretchen Peters, owner of Puppy Love Hot Dogs, said her customers’ “main concern is convenient parking.”
But resident Karen Paddleford said she prefers parallel parking to the existing angled parking spaces. It feels unsafe to back out of angled spaces, she said, because it’s difficult to see oncoming cars.
“Having kids in the backseat, backing out, not being able to see, I’m always nervous,” Paddleford said.
Others questioned whether parallel parking would slow traffic flow along Main Street.
“I’m not the best parallel parker in the world and am I going to hold up four blocks of traffic while I try to parallel park on Main Street?” said Pelletier, summarizing her group’s opinions for the rest of the room.
Concord developer Steve Duprey, who chaired the city’s Main Street advisory committee, told the crowd that the forums offered “an easier format” to provide feedback about Main Street. Duprey’s company covered the cost of last night’s event.