Land purchase could pave the way for extended Storrs Street in Concord
Randy Cilley, of Concord, feeds pigeons under the Loudon Road bridge on Tuesday afternoon, February 25, 2014, as trucks make their way at the end of Storrs Street. Next month, the the city council will vote whether to purchase the 4-acre property, allowing the city to extend Storrs Street to Constitution Avenue. Cilley has been feeding stray cats and pigeons in that area for over 15 years and has helped over 38 cats find homes, he said. More of which currently reside on the property. "Animals in general," he said, "I'm soft-hearted for them."
(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
A man makes his way to the Friendly Kitchen on Tuesday afternoon, February 25, 2014. Next month, the the city council will vote whether to purchase the 4-acre property, allowing the city to extend Storrs Street to Constitution Avenue, providing better access to the Friendly Kitchen and Horseshoe Pond.
(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
Joe Bard, his tan hood pulled over his ears, stood in the parking lot of the Friendly Kitchen to finish his cigarette yesterday.
Bard, 30, got to the kitchen from downtown Concord the most reliable way he could – by foot, straight along the train tracks.
“One and two,” he said, lifting his boots in mock steps.
In March, the city council will vote on purchasing land that would allow Concord to extend Storrs Street to Constitution Avenue. For those walking to the Friendly Kitchen, like Bard, or driving to any of the buildings near Horseshoe Pond, the through street would be a safer and more direct connection with downtown.
“It’d be a lot easier than walking on the ice in the winter,” Bard said, nodding at the snowy expanse he had just crossed, land that could someday be a new roadway.
Extending Storrs Street is still several years away, said Matt Walsh, the city’s director of redevelopment, downtown services and special projects. But if the council approves a purchase-and-sales agreement for the 4 acres owned by Tsunis Holding Inc., the city will finally own all of the land needed for a two-lane roadway planned nearly two decades ago.
Concord first envisioned the connecting road through this strip of land in the mid-1990s, Walsh said, when the city began to work with developers to build around Horseshoe Pond.
“The city always wanted to find a way to better connect that to downtown,” Walsh said. “But the city didn’t have the means to do (the Storrs Street extension). It has always just kind of lingered as this bit of the project that we never quite got to.”
Planning and building the extension of Storrs Street to Constitution Avenue is scheduled for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 in the city’s capital improvement plan. Walsh said that could change, depending on the state’s timetable to widen Interstate 93 through Concord.
“The timing is a little bit uncertain at the moment,” Walsh said.
But when it happens, he said Concord’s network of local roads will benefit.
“I think this particular project itself, it would help improve traffic flow downtown,” Walsh said. “It helps move people north and south easier. It would help get local traffic off I-93.”
The road would also be a more direct path to Main Street shops and restaurants for employees and residents around Horseshoe Pond, Walsh said.
“Connecting that to downtown with a simpler, easier-to-navigate transportation system would help them, but would also be good for downtown,” he said.
The city has bought other parcels in the area over the past several years, and next month, Walsh will ask the council to spend $1.05 million on the last piece needed for what he called the “grand plan.”
That money, however, wouldn’t come out of the average Concord taxpayer’s pocket.
The property is part of a special tax district called the North End Opportunity Corridor Tax Increment Finance District, where tax revenue from nearby developments is reinvested in new projects in that area. About $450,000 of the total bill will be covered with cash, and the remaining $600,000 will be paid out with a five-year bond – but the money will come out of property taxes only from that district. Included in the district are the Marriott Hotel, the Grappone Conference Center and several office buildings.
So Concord residents “will not see the cost of that bond in their tax bill,” Walsh said.
Building the road itself would be a multimillion dollar project. In a report to the city council, Walsh estimated the cost could range from $2.5 million to nearly $10 million depending on the design.
Once built, the extended Storrs Street would be a straight shot to the Friendly Kitchen, a building currently tangled in the web of roads that weave through Horseshoe Pond.
When a fire destroyed the Friendly Kitchen in 2011, Phil Wallingford, president of the board of directors, said the soup kitchen rebuilt at that spot knowing the city planned to someday extend Storrs Street to its new front door.
“In the past, the city has been really great in helping us initially find a place for our new facility after the fire,” Wallingford said. “But in every bit along the way since then, and this is one more, (we have) a sense of their designs being in line with ours.”
Many guests walk to the Friendly Kitchen, Wallingford said. Some travel along the train tracks, like Bard. Others hug the shoulder of Interstate 393.
“People arrive from every direction,” Wallingford said.
So even before Concord pours asphalt and concrete for the road and any sidewalks, the new city property could be a safer route to the Friendly Kitchen for those people.
“Even short of having a road built there, just having it public access will be a huge benefit,” he said.
Wallingford said the board will submit a letter in support of the purchase to the council before its March public hearing and vote. That meeting will take place March 10 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.
“It provides a really good access point to the kitchen for the people who need to come to our door and get a meal,” he said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)