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Concord to buy New Hampshire Employement Security site downtown

State of New Hampshire Department of Employment Security. (Monitor staff)

State of New Hampshire Department of Employment Security. (Monitor staff)

Concord will buy the New Hampshire Employment Security site on South Main Street and mothball it until the city can find a developer for the property.

The city council voted last night to pay $1.9 million for the 0.74-acre property and then an additional $90,000 to weatherize it for as many as five years.

Employment Security has now moved to the state office campus at 45 S. Fruit St. in Concord, leaving the building at 32-34 S. Main St. vacant. The city had hoped to find a developer to build a mixed-use complex on that property by the time the state moved out, but Concord formally rejected two proposals submitted for the job last year. Buying the property will allow Concord to control what sort of redevelopment happens there, said Matt Walsh, director of redevelopment, downtown services and special projects.

“There are definitely economic development benefits to the community if the property was acquired and held,” Walsh said.

But Ward 2 Councilor Allan Herschlag spoke against the purchase in part because the money to buy the state building will come from the Sears Block Tax Increment Finance district, which also includes the Capital Commons building and the Smile building on South Main Street. In a TIF district, tax revenue from developments inside its boundaries will be reinvested in new projects in that area.

“I think we’ve done everything we need to do to spur development in that district. . . . I think we should let the free market work its magic,” Herschlag said.

Herschlag was the only councilor to oppose any of last night’s decisions on the Employment Security building. Three separate votes – one to use the TIF district money, one to buy the building and one to weatherize it – came to 13-1; Ward 8 Councilor Gail Matson was absent. But Ward 4 Councilor Byron Champlin did echo Herschlag’s comments.

“I will vote in favor of this (purchase),” Champlin said. “I do have to say I’m a little concerned about the degree the city is involved in development projects.”

In an initial report, city staff wrote weatherizing the building to leave it standing would cost about $190,000. City Manager Tom Aspell slashed $100,000 from that number last night, because the city won’t board up the doors and windows of the building as originally planned. The council also considered demolishing the building, which would have cost about $325,000.

“My preference would be to take the building down because I don’t want to see a blighted building in downtown,” at-large Councilor Fred Keach said.

Leaving the building standing, however, allows a developer to choose between repurposing the existing building or tearing it down for something new, Aspell said. City staff has planned to find that developer in less than five years.

“I would think five years would be plenty of time to develop this site, but you can never tell,” Aspell said.

Once the city officially owns the building, Walsh said Concord can reach out directly to potential developers.

“We’ve been fielding inquiries from interested developers,” he said.

Concord is scheduled to close on the sale Sept. 19.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

Legacy Comments10

Note to Councilor Byron Champlin; very uncool to hedge your vote in the media. You voted for the purchase of this building. Tammy Wynette would not be proud.

Many might disagree with me and especially with the condition the state allowed the building to get to- but this is the only piece of 1960's architecture left in the city and I think it is worth preserving and making whoever wants the building - restore the facade and use it. In a restored condition I think this building would be a gem for the city in the long run.

Yup & Amen, but that facade has to go. There's something too Truman Capote about it.

BestPresidentReagan: You Sir, read as the donkey sounds.

If I said that I would be banned for weeks - Liberals are a sad sad awful bunch that is why you are only of 20% of the population

always looking for a way to spend parking lot sounds great.

Two likely consequences of this vote in an upcoming municipal election (within a couple years): if this mayor or any of these other “yes” votes are running for re-election, they will have to contend with the phrase “disastrous decision” next to their names; and, we get to welcome Mayor Herschlag!

I wonder how many homeless remain, I wonder how many pot holes remain, go drive "A" street and tell me, I wonder how many medians will become weed heavens, I wonder how many taxpayer citizens think the liberal progressive socialists that have a choke hold on Concord are doing the best for its citizens as opposed to a 1 track big business development mentality. NEXT is that new library. Then the new pavilion at White park ....meanwhile they cant build a street from the Soup kitchen to the bus station. When are the voters going to realize that these democrats dont care a hoot about the taxpayers they only care about big ideas about Main street and other big grandiose unproven utopian ideas.

Far and away the most liberal, progressive and (likely) Democrat member OF the (non-partisan) council is Allan Herschlag, the sole dissenting vote. But do keep it up: it is your kind of clear, objective and unprejudiced thinking that has made America great.

Reference: "We’ve been fielding inquiries from interested developers,” he said". Question: How many?

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