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Concord considers tannery site for new Penacook library

Plans are moving forward for a potential new Penacook branch library at the tannery site.

Although the Concord City Council won’t vote on relocating the library until this summer, the city is hiring a team of consultants to research and design it. If approved by the council as part of a larger redevelopment project, the small branch library would move into an old warehouse on the former Allied Leather Tannery property.

A new library would become part of the city’s partnership with Weston Solutions to build an assisted living facility and riverfront park. It could draw people to the park, serve the assisted living facility’s residents and eliminate concerns over maintaining the existing library in an aging Merrimack Street building, said Matt Walsh, the city’s assistant for special projects.

In the next month, the city will hire consultants to research, budget and design a potential library. Officials and designers will hold meetings with Penacook residents and library groups this spring to gather input about the design.

“We’ll be doing the same exact process for the riverfront park, so we’ll be talking about the library and the park as a package,” Walsh said.

A new library would include:

∎ Spaces tailored for children, teens and adults.

∎ Computers for public use.

∎ A public meeting room with a kitchenette.

∎ On-site parking.

∎ Outdoor patios that fit in with the planned riverfront park.

“I think we hope that the company that’s hired to do the preliminary design is going to look at those requirements as well as a lot of input from the city staff and the community and come back with a creative solution,” said Library Director Patricia Immen.

City Manager Tom Aspell said the existing library will have increased maintenance costs in the coming years. The three-story former police station on Merrimack Street isn’t accessible for people with disabilities and has about 1,000 square feet of public space.

“It doesn’t meet the needs of today. It certainly doesn’t meet the needs of tomorrow,” Aspell said.

The Penacook branch library is now open 15 hours a week, and Aspell said there is the potential to expand those hours if the library moves.

The 4,100 square-foot warehouse building on the tannery site was built in 1983 and is entirely open inside, which Walsh said would give designers a “blank canvas” to develop a new library.

While the library’s move isn’t final, the city council has given city officials approval to hire consultants to research the project. The entire tannery site redevelopment project has an estimated budget of $2 million, Walsh told the city council at a meeting this week. That amount includes the library relocation and would be funded by Weston Solutions’ development, he said.

The library project itself – including the current research and design phase – has an estimated budget of $949,450.

Aspell said a final decision about the Penacook branch library will likely depend on whether the Weston Solutions redevelopment project can support and fund it.

The city plans to create a tax increment finance district for the tannery site, Walsh said. It would use tax revenue generated by Weston Solutions’ development to cover the cost of moving the library, building the riverfront park and improving Canal Street.

Weston Solutions may also come forward with a proposal to build the library and lease it back to the city, Walsh said.

“There’s a couple of different ways it could still go,” he said.

Construction is expected to begin at the tannery site in 2014, Walsh said.

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

Concord Govt ought to concentrating on doing their core mandates well before they venture out into real estate development. This is a govt that has yet to figure out how to manage their abundant weeds that make the town look like a slum and their inability to clear sidewalks after a storm is legendary. There plan for you low information voters is to make the whole town similar to the parking lot they own and maintain at the Everett Arena

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