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My Turn: Trying to park in December would be a fairer test

I read with great interest the front-page article in the June 4 Monitor regarding parking in downtown Concord.

While somewhat informative and wonderful to see that so many of your staff enjoy going to the Barley House as much as I do, I found the general conclusions that it’s really no problem parking in downtown Concord a bit troubling. As a retail business and property owner in downtown Concord, I think having lots of available parking on a hot weekend in June is a plus, but I doubt you would find the same situation present in December, especially when the Legislature is in session.

Why is this such an important distinction? Most retail business rely heavily upon the Christmas season to stay afloat. Bad weather and a lack of parking during the all-important Christmas season can spell disaster for many of us, as December sales can account for nearly 30 percent of annual sales. When looking at the fourth quarter of the year in the case of my business, it accounts for nearly 50 percent of annual sales. Abundant, convenient parking is vitally important to the survival of a retail business; without it many of us would not be able to earn a living. And for this very reason is why most Main Street business owners are so excited about heated sidewalks, but little else.

If the goal of the complete streets project is to turn downtown Concord into downtown Manchester, a place where there is an abundance of office workers and restaurants but little to no retail business, then eliminating convenient parking is the way to go. If we want to continue to have a thriving downtown that includes a balanced mix of office, retail, restaurant and recreational space, I would suggest taking a harder look at the design and making sure that is does not unduly harm the interests of retail business owners.

(Jeffrey Bart owns the Granite State Candy Shoppe in Concord.)

People tend to shop where they live. If the upper stories now vacant on Main St. were occupied by apartment dwellers you would have plenty of people walking and shopping. You would have the vibrant downtown you want. I remember the city fathers promising the mall wouldn't kill downtown. Concord would somehow be spared the fate of every other city that allowed a mall. Now they're back with a plan sure to kill whatever life is left. As for parking in the garages, people don't and they won't. All the "shoulds" in the world won't change that. I never use parking garages because they're creepy places.

Concord is suffering from a severe case of what goes around, comes a around. In the dark ages, ???? to 1960's, Main Street and vicinity was an affordable area to shop. You had JJ Newberry and Woolworths, both 5+10 cent stores, Frenchs Radio, Britts and any number of non-upscale shops. Yes French's is still around but it got trendy. You also had the Concord and Capital Theaters for entertainment. What exactly does downtown have to offer for those with limited discretionary income, nothing. What will change after spending millions of tax dollars, nothing except the fact that millions were spent. Nothing personal but besides the State House, the old Capital Theater and the hidden Stone Warehouse, downtown is an architectural wasteland of mediocrity.

Also in regards to people shopping on Loudon Road, I beg to differ, the mall is emptier than Main St is and apparently the parent company going bankrupt. In addition the size of the parking lots at the Walmart, Mall and Target are a further walk than from any garages on main st. to your destination. Lastly, reports have come out indicating that large box stores like walmart with their low low prices and low low wages actually cost the taxpayers on average over 900k per year to subsidize the benefits like food stamps, housing assistance etc that we the public have to pay because they don't pay their workers a living wage and keep them at PT status. The merchants on Main St. are our neighbors and hire our kids and give us a sense of community. I don't want to live in a place where there is no character or uniqueness and everything looks like S. Willow or Loudon Rd.

Everybody wants their Main Street to be bustling and successful. I love doing business on Main Street. There is a sense of community, and you definitly get better service than you would at WalMart or Target. As far as retail goes, retail has never been a job that pays well. Never has and never will. Retail has for the most part been a job that folks take who have no college degree, or specific job description. Retail has also been a place where most of us had our first jobs as teens. Those are referred to as start out jobs. The idea is that as a teen you work at WalMart or bag groceries, and while doing that, hopefully it dawns on you that you would prefer to do a job you like and pays well, thus inspiring you to go to college or get a trade. I grew up where folks worked in the mills. They are gone, so the low wage jobs are in retail, food services etc. Walmart caters to the 30-60 grand income levels. They offer lower prices and everything in one place. They did that before anybody else did. They are a huge success. But they are not a place to work if you expect to support a family and own a house. That is reality. The only way big chains will fail is if they higher prices than the small Main Street Shops. And that will never happen. Their success is based on how much they sell. They got the folks buying there.

@Rabbit, I love how you conveniently ignored the other part of my statement which is that the Garage would be free for the first hour. My plan solves two issues, 1. For those whose time is so important that they cannot fathom the idea of a 3-5 minute walk from the garage to the store of their choice, they would pay a premium to park in front of the store. Secondly if you knew you were going to be shopping for over an hour it would direct more people to the garage instead of overspending for on street parking. the whole point is to make the on street parking for running in and quickly grabbing something.

Who do you think shops downtown Concerned? It is the folks with the highest incomes because they can afford to. Not families who cannot afford to buy school shoes for their young kids at Joe Kings. They also when eating out, do not eat out at expensive restaurants downtown. That is evident by the problems with our kids obesity and other problems. They are eating out at McDonalds because that is all they can afford. My point is that the problem with Main Street is not how it looks, but what they have to offer. They have great things to offer if you can afford to pay for the higher prices for the smaller inventories. The service is terrific and the owners are great. Your income determines where you shop. I have lived here for many years and seen a lot of businesses come and go. The ones that leave have the same thing in common. Small inventories at high prices. Small expensive inventories cater to wealthy clients. WalMart caters to middle class incomes and lower.

Brilliant!. Lets increase the cost of parking at the meters. Concerned says double or triple it. I am sure by doing that, more folks will be glad to shop on Main. Street. They can pay more to park, then they can go in to the stores and pay more for the products there. Smaller inventories require higher prices to make a profit. Last time I checked, folks were not able to afford to shop downtown and were heading up to Loudon Rd. That is because the income levels here cannot support shopping in downtown Concord. We are Concord NH not Concord MA. Take a shopping trip on Main St. You tell me, how many folks are in those stores shopping. Down there yesterday and there were tons of parking spaces in front of the stores. Getting worse it seems to me. Lets make it more expensive to park, and my guess is that the folks who can afford to shop on Main will bail also.

I thought the parking article was simply more propoganda, trying to convince those of us who oppose the plan ( the majority) that we are all wrong and don't know what we're talking about. The parking issues pretty much everyone has been complaining about for 25 years don't really exist. Right?

There are two parking garages less than a 3 minute walk from the Candy Store. What they should be doing is raising the price of on-street parking, say doubling or tripling it and offering the first hour free if you park in a garage and get your ticket validated by a Main st. merchant. This will encourage more people to use the garage. They should also change all of the garages to a system where you get a ticket upon entry and you pay on your way out based on the time you parked. The system we have now is terrible. We should also look into the EZ pass type system that Manchester has where you don't need to physically go up to the parking kiosk on street to pay.

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