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Steve Duprey envisions library, housing on Employment Security site

Steve Duprey stands in front of a sketch of the 5-story building that his company, Foxfire, will eventually build on S. Main Street; Friday, Jan. 22, 2010.  The building will have affordable housing and offices.
(Concord Monitor photo/Katie Barnes)

Steve Duprey stands in front of a sketch of the 5-story building that his company, Foxfire, will eventually build on S. Main Street; Friday, Jan. 22, 2010. The building will have affordable housing and offices. (Concord Monitor photo/Katie Barnes)

Steve Duprey wants to build market-rate housing and a library on South Main Street, at the state Employment Security headquarters.

The Concord developer talked about his proposal to the city and state governments during a tour of downtown buildings Wednesday evening.

“We’ve got some great plans for it if we’re chosen to do it,” Duprey told one tour group.

But he’s not the only developer interested in the site.

The city received multiple proposals by last week’s deadline, said Assistant for Special Projects Matt Walsh. The city council has not met to review them, Walsh said, and city officials can’t discuss any of the plans until the council selects a preferred developer.

The city and state governments are working together to sell and redevelop the property when the state relocates the Department of Employment Security next year.

In January, the city asked for proposals that could include market-rate housing and a mixture of retail, restaurant or office space. The city also suggested that the site could house a 40,000 square-foot public library – if developers were interested.

Duprey spoke of his plans Wednesday during Intown Concord’s Upstairs, Downtown walking tour, which included his newest building on South Main Street, at the former site of the New Hampshire Bindery.

As he showed tour groups around the top floor of the building, he pointed across the street at the Employment Security site and described his vision for the property.

“We came in with a number of options,” Duprey said.

Tour participants in at least one group said Duprey spoke of his plans for a new library on South Main Street.

He did not tell every group about his idea for a library, and he told the Monitor after the event simply that his proposal is “responsive to the RFP,” or the city’s request for proposals.

Each of his project options would include between 30 and 50 market-rate housing units, he said.

“We’re debating between rental and condominium
. . . so we’ve been doing a fair amount of market research,” Duprey said.

Duprey’s varied proposals for the site depend on how much land he can use. The 0.74-acre Employment Security property shares a block with the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the Concord Feminist Health Center and a private residence. He hopes to purchase the entire block, he said Wednesday night.

At the Concord Feminist Health Center, Executive Director Dalia Vidunas said she was approached by three developers. She’s met with two of them.

Vidunas said the center would consider selling its property if it could find a new location in Concord to meet its needs. She would work with the center’s board of directors to find a new location before negotiating with a developer.

“Gosh, we would love to stay here,” she said. “But also, the plans that we’ve heard about are just so exciting for Concord, and Concord has been so good to us that we just want to make sure that downtown gets exactly what they deserve.”

Walsh said the city will likely announce its preferred project this summer, once it enters a formal negotiating period with a developer and the state. Though the state owns the property, a chosen developer will eventually enter a private partnership with the city.

City and state officials will meet early next month, Walsh said, to “compare notes and to get each other’s feedback to the proposals that we’ve received.” Officials will then interview each developer before reviewing proposals with the city council, which Walsh said he hopes to do at a nonpublic meeting in July.

In every city project, Walsh said, requests for proposals are not made public during negotiations. It protects the city’s negotiating process and the developers’ plans, he said.

“We’re not trying to keep anything from the community,” he said. “It’s really just until we can go through the process and know exactly what we’ve got.”

Even if he isn’t chosen for the project, Duprey said, he thinks the redevelopment will be good for the city.

It will also be good for his own business, he added. He opened the Smile Building on South Main Street in 2011, and his building next door on the former bindery site is set to open this summer. Both buildings are across the street from the Employment Security headquarters at 32-34 S. Main St.

“Certainly anything happening over there would help our property values here,” he said.

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

I think locating the Library in that end of the city would be in the best interest of the city. I think the importance of a city library is access to all the people, elderly children and maintaining a central location for public use. How many people have been in our current Library? It's in the perfect location and the building could use a little make over, but there is nothing wrong with it. I like the location in the center of the city, and also in close proximity to plenty of parking and walking patrons, also close to the NH State Library is a big plus too. It seems to me that Mr. Duprey has a self serving purpose here and that is dollar signs.....let's keep the Library where it is and improve that building. I think the money could be better spent sprucing up the store fronts along main street, and not wasting money putting money in developers hands or rerouting the downtown scheme of lanes or road or on street parking. Spend a little public money rehabbing some of the houses that lead into the downtown or clean up the side walks that are some of the side streets which carry a lot of pedestrian traffic into town. Never mind looking for ways to put money into Steve Duprey's pockets. It's like the city government wants to spend money just for the sake of spending it, not spending it wisely in the best interest of the general public.

I said in my initial comment sent in that: "I think locating the Library in that end of the city would [not] be in the best interest of the city."

My understanding is that the motivation for moving the library downtown is due to the city adminstration needing more office space. First it was taking a city block off the tax roles and now it is occupying the first floor of a redeveloped Employment Security buidling. Years ago there were suggestions made by city employees (those that got their hands dirty working) that would have freed up space at the city's Green Street complex, that would not have required relocating the library. But as many of us know it's not what you suggest, but who suggests it - Allan Herschlag

Allan, what about the building on State St that currently houses (I think) DOJ and state police offices, and formerly had a Laconia Savings Bank branch on the ground floor. If this is a state-owned building, and is partially vacant, how feasible is a 1:1swap with the library? It's a beautiful pink granite building, and would make a grand library.

I was under the impression that our library has been showing less usuage over the last few years. Why do we need a new one if that is the case? The study pointed to e books, etc. I guess the idea here is also that if it looks good, folks will come. But it seems to me Concord's Main Street has issues with what they offer downtown price wise and small inventory wise. I believe that many feel that Concord NH is Concord MA. We do not have the income levels to support that kind of thinking. Look at the downtown stores that are successful. Many have come and gone because they have small inventories, so have to charge higher prices. That is also true of expensive Restaurants that have failed. I have lived here for 24 years, and I always marveled at the downtown stores. I would shop there and find most of the stores were empty. That is not a good sign. I also wondered how they stayed opened.

The city needs to get out of the real estate development business and simply sell the land.....it is simply a business they are neither good at doing nor is it a mandate that the people have designed them to do......as for the library they have a perfectly good library in its current location

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