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Changing directions on Concord's Main Street redesign project

  • A rendering of what North Main Street would look like after the Main Street project changes. Louis Karno & Company Communications, the public relations firm handling the Main Street project, released these illustrations updated with changes that the project would bring to downtown Concord. <br/><br/>(Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

    A rendering of what North Main Street would look like after the Main Street project changes. Louis Karno & Company Communications, the public relations firm handling the Main Street project, released these illustrations updated with changes that the project would bring to downtown Concord.

    (Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

  • A rendering of what North Main Street would look like after the Main Street project changes. Louis Karno & Company Communications, the public relations firm handling the Main Street project, released these illustrations updated with changes that the project would bring to downtown Concord. <br/><br/>(Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

    A rendering of what North Main Street would look like after the Main Street project changes. Louis Karno & Company Communications, the public relations firm handling the Main Street project, released these illustrations updated with changes that the project would bring to downtown Concord.

    (Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

  • A rendering of what North Main Street would look like after the Main Street project changes. Louis Karno & Company Communications, the public relations firm handling the Main Street project, released these illustrations updated with changes that the project would bring to downtown Concord. <br/><br/>(Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

    A rendering of what North Main Street would look like after the Main Street project changes. Louis Karno & Company Communications, the public relations firm handling the Main Street project, released these illustrations updated with changes that the project would bring to downtown Concord.

    (Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

  • A rendering of what North Main Street would look like after the Main Street project changes. Louis Karno & Company Communications, the public relations firm handling the Main Street project, released these illustrations updated with changes that the project would bring to downtown Concord. <br/><br/>(Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)
  • A rendering of what North Main Street would look like after the Main Street project changes. Louis Karno & Company Communications, the public relations firm handling the Main Street project, released these illustrations updated with changes that the project would bring to downtown Concord. <br/><br/>(Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)
  • A rendering of what North Main Street would look like after the Main Street project changes. Louis Karno & Company Communications, the public relations firm handling the Main Street project, released these illustrations updated with changes that the project would bring to downtown Concord. <br/><br/>(Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

The Concord City Council will take up the Main Street project again at 7 tonight in council chambers on Green Street. The project, which would be funded in part by a $4.71 million federal grant, would redesign and rebuild 12 blocks of the downtown corridor for a total $10.35 million.

But the city only received one bid during each of two attempts to find a general contractor – and both proposals came in at nearly double the budget for construction. In September, Pembroke-based F.L. Merrill Construction offered $12.23 million for work that was supposed to cost $6.2 million. The city rejected that offer, upped its budget to $7.1 million and reissued the request for bids. Last month, the only response came in at $13.23 million from Concord-based E.D. Swett Inc.

At tonight’s meeting, city staff will ask the council to make several changes to the construction process, such as switching from nighttime construction to day work. Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development, has said loosening those parameters will make the project cheaper and more attractive to contractors.

One of the major decisions the council will have to make tonight is whether a snow-melt system will be a part of the new Main Street. The prospect of heating the downtown sidewalks sold many business owners on the project. Because Concord Steam likely won’t be able to power that system, the city would have to spend about $2.5 million – $1.6 million more than what was budgeted – to lay the pipes and build its own heating plant. And Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development, has said the city would then need to budget $90,000 to $150,000 each year to run that system itself.

Today, between 18 and 22 storefronts on Main Street are inaccessible, said Richard Cohen, executive director for the Disabilities Rights Center. Include in the downtown redesign is a plan to change that – where one or two steps currently block the entrance of a building to wheelchair operators, the path into that shop or restaurant would become a flat one. For example, the wider sidewalk would allow for a ramp to Phenix Hall, as shown in this rendering.

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