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As deadline nears, Concord councilors hear Main Street input

  • A rendering of the proposed Main Street redesign project from the May 23, 2013, public hearing presentation.

    A rendering of the proposed Main Street redesign project from the May 23, 2013, public hearing presentation.

  • A rendering of the proposed Main Street redesign project from the May 23, 2013, public hearing presentation.

    A rendering of the proposed Main Street redesign project from the May 23, 2013, public hearing presentation.

  • A rendering of the proposed Main Street redesign project from the May 23, 2013, public hearing presentation.

    A rendering of the proposed Main Street redesign project from the May 23, 2013, public hearing presentation.

  • A rendering of the proposed Main Street redesign project from the May 23, 2013, public hearing presentation.
  • A rendering of the proposed Main Street redesign project from the May 23, 2013, public hearing presentation.
  • A rendering of the proposed Main Street redesign project from the May 23, 2013, public hearing presentation.

Just three weeks before its deadline to submit Main Street redesign plans, the Concord City Council heard both praise and criticism about the plans last night from a variety of residents and business owners.

Councilors spent more than four hours last night and heard input from more than 20 people. They will begin making decisions during work sessions next week.

The city received a $4.71 million federal grant for the project last year, and must submit plans to the federal government by mid-June. Construction is scheduled to begin in September, and the project has a price tag of $7.05 million.

Last week, the city council criticized the lack of detail provided by the design team. But last night, Mayor Jim Bouley said the presentation was “very well done.”

Additional details presented last night include:

∎ Signs around downtown to guide visitors and provide historical information.

∎ Numerous parking signs, which City Manager Tom Aspell said would be visible from everywhere downtown.

∎ An informational kiosk on Park Street to replace the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce booth on the State House plaza.

∎ Banners that could span Main Street at the intersections to advertise events like the annual Market Days.

∎ Street lights that have built-in speakers and hanging space for banners.

Plans no longer include a pocket park on Phenix Avenue. Aspell said he proposes closing the street to traffic and making “minor cosmetic improvements to Phenix Avenue itself.”

The city could create loading zones for businesses in that area to Storrs Street and Depot Street, said Deputy City Manager for Development Carlos Baia.

The budget includes $634,500 for a snowmelt system powered by Concord Steam, though the utility has not informed the city of its plans for a new plant in the South End.

“But somewhere along the line the decision will be made: Do you build it with the intent of never possibly being able to use it, or do you not build it and use that money for something else, or not use that money at all?” Aspell said.

Sue McCoo, owner of Capitol Craftsman & Romance Jewelers and The Viking House, said not heating the sidewalks is “almost a deal-breaker.”

Gerry Mark, owner of Caring Gifts, surveyed 69 merchants in the past week. He said 25 of them wanted to stop the project and 44 wanted to make adjustments to the design. Many of them listed concerns about parking, he said.

Developer Steve Duprey, who led an advisory committee that made recommendations for the project last fall, complimented the designs. He said the project will help commerce and the local community.

“It is a smart investment to invest in your Main Street,” Duprey said. “It is a project that we need to do.”

The design team proposed relocating the clocktower at Eagle Square to the front of Phenix Avenue. The budget includes $40,000 to move it.

Johnathan Law, a landscape architect on the city’s design team, said the clock’s proposed location would draw attention to a centrally located area of Main Street. He said its current location blocks the entrance to Eagle Square, and creates difficulty navigating the tight sidewalk area around it.

Bill Dunlap, executive director of the New Hampshire Historical Society, voiced opposition to moving the clocktower from Eagle Square to Phenix Hall. The historical society owns the clocktower, and he told the council they’ve maintained it at Eagle Square since 1998.

“We don’t have any perception that there’s somehow an obstruction to the entrance to Eagle Square,” he said. “In fact, we think it’s kind of a landmark that helps mark the entrance to Eagle Square.”

Mark Ciborowski, who owns Phenix Hall, said he’s in favor of moving the clocktower.

“I have a bit of Yankee frugality in me, too . . . but I do think it is a better location,” he said.

Several residents spoke about proposed fountains for children on the State House plaza. Some raised concern that it would be inappropriate in front of a war memorial.

“I think it would be a good thing to draw people to that space,” said Byron Champlin, a board member of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce.

Some residents had previously asked for restrooms near the fountains. The design team showed free-standing restroom units to the city council, but Aspell said he suggests refurbishing the bathrooms in Bicentennial Square.

Designs include two wide lanes with room for vehicles and bicycles, a 6-foot crossable center median and a mixture of angled and parallel parking spaces. Sidewalk width will increase to as wide as 20 feet with space for benches, landscaping and outdoor dining.

Public input last night addressed a variety of other details. Resident Allan Herschlag said the proposed ginkgo trees are known to drop a foul-smelling fruit during the fall and said the entire project requires more research.

The city council has scheduled three work sessions next week to discuss and revise the plans. They will meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the council’s chambers.

A final public hearing and vote on the designs will be held June 6.

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

Legacy Comments10

Steve Dupprey chaired the committee that made recomendations to the council for the complete streets project. Those recommendations were accepted unanimously by the council and the council directed staff to follow those recommendations. This is not a party issue, this is an issue were the council, city staff and their consultants feel they know what is best for the merchants downtown. While there will be an expectation for the downtown merchants to contribute to this project financially, their concerns and recommendations are being ignored. As an aside, whenever federal monies are available it doesn't matter whether it is democrats or republicans they all are lined up at the gravy train with their hands out - Allan Herschlag

I wonder whether part of Mr. Duprey's thinking was that by drying up traffic on Main Street, he will have fewer people to observe the monumentally boring facades of his new buildings. One might think that if his building is named "Smile," the official title of this project ought to be: "Have a good laugh on us."

Unfortunately, no matter how you dress this up it's a waste of money. America in general no longer shops on Main Street, we like our shopping enclosed. No trudging through snow or rain anymore. There will always be quaint little niche type stores, but lets face it you can't make a silk purse out of ........ Let's face it, Concord is what it is. Some of the stores have changed, but except for Eagle Sq., it's the same looking Main St. I first saw when we moved to the area in 1963. Sorry we are not the same as Keene or Portsmouth and never will be. I mean, not having heated sidewalks is a deal breaker???? So hurry up and spend even more of my tax dollars on something only important to property owners and a certain developer.

Case in point: an Abbott-Downing museum. At one time in the world, the top of the line cargo transport wagon of the world was made right down on South Main Street. The premier horse drawn coach of the world, known as the most comfortable stagecoach there was. All sorts of specialized wagon designs used for very specific types of commerce and transportation. Later, some of the first motorized trucks. A couple of years ago the city had an opportunity to buy several coaches and wagons from private collections and set up a museum. But with little discussion they passed, never even asking their beloved consultants questions like how many visitors and from where would likely come and visit such a museum, or how much revenue such a museum would likely generate for other nearby businesses. How hypoctrical a move for a bunch of folks who like to present themselves as interested in city history. The remaining 2 buildings of the once great factory are run down, rotting as they stand, uncared for.

As a lifelong area resident, including many years in Concord, I think this plan is absurd. The future of Main Street is office space, period. For too many years and through too many projects (that have ALL failed and ended up bankrupt) the city fathers want to get the cake and eat it too. This project is more of the same thinking, the most grandiose of them all. I, for one, will no longer go to or shop on Main Street if they build ths ridiculous project. And I hear this from plenty of other people. I have better things to than to smile and feel joy as everybody drives at 5mph along such a quaint streetscape. The things that would make Main Street in to something interesting are the very things ignored by city leaders and planners.

That's simply gorgeous. But who cares? I haven't seen any "design" that would be cause for more people to go downtown.... oh, I've got it! Build a casino downtown!!!

democrats rushing to tax and spend on a frivolous project when they cant even keep weeds from growing to 3' high all across the town...typical

Sail, I see you're at it again. The absolute strongest support for this project at last nights council meeting came from Steve Duprey. Last I checked he ain't no democrat. A former Republican delegate and I believe he headed the republican party here in NH a number of years back. And a strong backer of John McCain when he ran for president. And while it would be easy to label me a liberal social democrat with conservative fiscal tendencies, no one has been more critical of this project then myself. Just say'in - Allan Herschlag

C'mon, Allan, don't get in the way of sail's (or GW's or Itsa's or any of the other usual suspects') fact-free narrative. I guarantee that I am more liberal social/democratic than you, and I have been accused of favoring "tax and spend" policies almost weekly. Yet I have been critical of this misdirected project as well.

Steve Duprey does not have a vote on this project - the massive majority liberal democrats on the council do.....Steve does have a business interest.....guess what it is

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