How difficult is it to park in downtown Concord?
The Concord City Council spent hours last week debating parking for the redesigned Main Street. The result: Five more parking spaces on North Main Street in exchange for narrower sidewalks between Capital Plaza and Warren Street.
The city’s design team had proposed parallel parking along the west side of the street. But the majority of councilors favored a switch to angled parking in one area, citing concern from business owners and residents. Their vote was tentative; the council will finalize plans after a hearing Thursday night.
After the council’s debate, the Monitor began its own experiment, hoping to answer the question: Just how hard is it to park in downtown Concord? Staff members drove downtown and tried to park as close as possible to their destinations.
In 30 combined parking attempts, most staffers quickly found parking spaces. Only a few people had to circle the block or walk farther than desired.
Here’s what they found:
Thursday, 10 a.m.: I had two stops to make on Main Street on Thursday morning: one at CVS and another at the State House Annex. My goal was finding a spot near CVS so I could walk to both. I was surprised by how many empty parking spots I found on Main Street! I parked in front of CVS without trouble and enjoyed the short walk to my two stops.
Thursday, 3:32 p.m.: I went to CVS on my way back from my meeting. I approached from Pleasant Street, didn’t have to circle the block or anything. There were multiple open spaces in front of the store.
Thursday, 4:56 p.m.: I set my sights on the Barley House, a place where once upon a time, journalists would meet for drinks and spy on lawmakers and lobbyists. I hit the intersection of North State and Centre streets on a green light, cut down Capitol Street – where most spaces were empty – and took one of four empty spaces within 25 yards of the tavern at 4:58. Search time, negligible.
Thursday, 5:10 p.m.: Traffic was busy enough that I had to wait for two red lights to take a left off Bridge Street onto Main Street. I was headed south on Main Street, and my goal was to find a space near the Barley House. There were four empty spots across the street, in front of the State House. There were 12 on Park Street, one really close to the Barley House, right at the intersection of Park and Main streets. The whole newsroom could have met at the Barley House for an afternoon drink and parked without trouble.
Thursday, 5:11 p.m.: At the end of the day, I decided to head down to CVS. It was 88 degrees outside, so a lengthy walk from my car to the store was going to be a deal-killer (I’m not great in the heat). There was nothing open right in front of the store, but there was a space just up the block, in front of Northway Bank. Within a minute I was parked within a block of CVS – and if Orange Leaf had opened yet in the old Butter’s Fine Food and Wine storefront, I would have been able to pick up a frozen yogurt for my trouble.
Thursday, 5:15 p.m.: I was trying to find a spot near the Concord Food Co-op. The Capitol Center for the Arts was hosting an event, so all the Main Street parking on both sides was taken. There were no spots from Pleasant Street south, until after Thorndike Street.
While there was no street parking, there was plenty of room in the Capital Commons garage. It would help, though, to have a “Parking” sign on Main Street telling drivers just how close that garage really is to Main Street. Having to drive behind Main Street to reach the Storrs Street entrance leaves the impression that the garage is farther away than it is. How about a sign that said “Parking – just around the corner”? Seems foolish to have no clear signage.
Thursday: 5:50 p.m.: I took a left onto Main Street from Loudon Road and attempted to park as close to the Barley House as I could. The situation initially looked grim, as every spot on both sides was full for several blocks. However, as I was passing the State House, a car backed out of a spot just past Capitol Street and I was able to pull right in – just a 30-second walk from my destination.
Thursday, 6:30 p.m.: I was trying to find a spot near the Barley House. I made a left turn from Loudon Road onto Main Street. I did not see any parking in the first block (between Loudon/Centre and Park streets), or in the second or third blocks (Park to Capitol, Capitol to School). I turned right on School Street and immediately pulled into a spot on the left side of the road. It took all of about a minute, and I was 2½ blocks from the Barley House.
Friday, 9 a.m.: I turned north on Main Street, from Thorndike Street, in hopes of finding a spot in front of Bread and Chocolate. There were four parallel parking spots available in front of the bakery.
I also checked out parking availability in front of The Works. There were even more: eight angled spots in front of CVS.
And if you wanted to go to Crust and Crumb, which is across from the State House, you would have found easy parking there, too. There were six free spots between Crust and Crumb and Siam Orchid. Most were angled parking.
Friday, 9:30 a.m.: I was traveling south along North Main Street to look for a parking spot near the Barley House. There were two open spaces along the State House Plaza, and I pulled right into one of them. Looking for a parking space didn’t add any time to my trip, and I was directly across the street from my destination.
Friday, 9:54 a.m.: I tried to find a spot near Red River Theatres. Three parallel parking spaces were open in front of Bread and Chocolate. I pulled right into the spot in the back of the line. If that parking space hadn’t been open, I would have kept searching because I do not know how to parallel park.
Friday, 10 a.m.: The light at Pleasant and Main streets changed and I exited left to destination, Red River Theatres and the Co-op. Parked at 10:01 in one of two spaces available. Paid my quarter, made my Co-op purchase and departed.
Friday, 11:12 a.m.: I pulled off Interstate 93 at Exit 13 and headed downtown, intent on the parking trifecta: Red River Theatres, CVS and the Barley House. Rather than try for a street spot outside Red River, I turned right onto Storrs Street and made my way to the cool comfort of the Capital Commons parking garage. It was 11:15. I took one of the two spots open on the first level, paid my quarter at the kiosk and forwent the elevator, instead climbing the stairs to the Red River entrance before continuing outside. At 11:18, I stood on Main Street next to Gibson’s Bookstore.
After a few errands, I returned to my car at 11:32. A left out of the garage, a left onto Pleasant Street Extension (lots of spots there) and a right onto Main brought me to CVS. I passed three open spaces before pulling into a fourth directly in front of the CVS entrance. It was 11:35 by this point. A quarter in the parking kiosk that’s 18 steps away, and I got a slip good until 11:56.
More errands, and I was back in my car again at 11:43. I eased out of my angled spot into traffic and passed 13 open spots before deciding not to push my luck any further e_SEnD after all, it was lunch time. I put the same parking slip back on my dashboard and walked 50 steps before arriving at the Barley House entrance – having passed three open spots on my way. Another errand, and I was back in my car at 11:48, with eight minutes to spare.
The only thing that could have made this easier was . . . heated sidewalks?
Friday, 12:03 p.m.: I hit downtown in search of a Kit Kat bar at CVS and a parking spot for this assignment. It was hot, in the 90s, and North Main Street was clogged with traffic, slowed now and then by sweaty people using the crosswalks. Suddenly, while heading south, there it was, a parking spot across the street from the woman who sells hot dogs under her umbrella. And a two-minute walk from CVS and my crispy Kit Kat.
Friday, 12:05 p.m.: Lunch is a busy time for the Barley House, though it’s not as crowded on a Friday as it would be on a day when the House is in session across the street at the State House. As I drove up North Main Street, I spotted an open space – but it was too tight a fit for my compact, since a truck was parked in the next space over and spilled over into the space. Luckily, on the other side of the truck a second space was open, and I slipped in. Total time searching for a space: 15 seconds.
Friday, 5:15 p.m.: There was only one space on Main Street near the Barley House, in the block south of the State House. I figure that’s a popular spot on a late Friday afternoon. There were plenty of spots, however, in the blocks going south toward Pleasant. I planned on going to the “Side-by-Side” show at McGowan’s (good show by the way) and picking up some tomatoes and lemons at the Co-op. The first open spot on the west side of the street was in front of the cupcake shop, right across from Hills Avenue and in the same block as the Co-op. But it was the only one (on both sides of the street) and I took it. The spot to my left emptied before I jotted down my notes and left the car, but it was filled as I crossed the street. I was in McGowan’s about a half-hour and the area was still filled up when I stopped into the Co-op.
Friday, 5:50 p.m.: A blisteringly hot day. My destination was the dark, air-conditioned belly of Red River Theatres. Traffic was moderate, and my goal was to find a spot in front of the Concord Food Co-op. No luck. Same story across the street, in front of Gibson’s Bookstore. I continued south. Nothing, nothing, still nothing. As I was contemplating rounding the block and parking in the garage behind Red River, I noticed a single available space in front of the Department for Employment Security. Thirty seconds later I was parked and out of my vehicle, with about five minutes left to make my 6 p.m. show.
Friday, 7:15 p.m.: I turned right onto North Main Street from Centre Street, hoping to find a parking space near the Barley House. Main Street looked busy, so I gambled on Park Street instead. I turned right onto Park and immediately spied a space across the street from St. Paul’s Church, alongside the State House. I was just half a block away from my destination.
Friday, 7:20 p.m.: I turned right onto Main Street from Capitol, hoping to find a parking space near CVS. I drove slowly south and then – success! There was a space in front of Joe King’s, directly across the street from my destination.
Friday 7:25 p.m.: I rolled slowly south on Main Street, looking for a parking space near Red River Theatres. I know, I know – the easiest option is the garage on Storrs Street, but I always try to find an on-street space first. No luck in front of the theater. I turned right on Fayette Street, right again on State Street and a third right on Pleasant. My intention was to head for the garage and call it quits. But then – behold – a space on Pleasant Street right outside the New To You clothing shop. This required a short walk: half a block down Pleasant, across the street, and another half a block to the theater.
Friday, 8:50 p.m.: We headed to the Barley House hoping to score two things: a parking spot and a table outside. We got both, but we had to wait for the table. Main Street was busy, but we found a parking space in front of the Barley House. Within two minutes, we were at the Barley House waiting for an outside table. That took about 10 minutes. I’d call that a perfect Friday night.
Saturday, 9:28 a.m.: Downtown was bustling with pedestrians schmoozing at the farmers market and the arts market and drivers pulling in and out of parking spaces up and down Main Street. Parking looked difficult, but I was determined to find a spot close to CVS. It took just two minutes to find an empty space outside the Gondwana clothing store – just a short hop from my destination. When I left, there was an SUV on my tail, waiting to get into my space.
Saturday, 12:08 p.m.: Driving north in search of a Snickers bar at CVS on a scorching Saturday afternoon, I was forced to drive past CVS, hang a left onto School Street, then a left onto North State, then a left onto Pleasant, then another left, back onto North Main. Luckily, someone was pulling out as I approached, giving me a parking spot directly in front of Things Are Cooking, about a minute walk from my destination. The Snickers, like the Kit Kat, didn’t melt because I was back inside my car, air conditioning blasting, before you could say “yum.”
Saturday, 12:37 p.m.: I was heading to the Capitol Center for the Arts to watch my stepchildren perform in a dance recital. My husband and I turned left onto North Main Street from Loudon Road. I was the passenger, so I was on the lookout for empty parking spaces. I saw one spot by the State House, one by Merrimack County Savings Bank, one by Edible Arrangements, one by Christian Salon, two by Joe King’s and one by the Co-op.
Right before our destination, around Thompson Street, there was a lot of stopped traffic. I’m assuming it was because parents were dropping off their children at the entrance to the Capitol Center. We drove past the Capitol Center and just as we were driving past, I noticed a guy with his back-up lights on. We just missed a primo spot! Darn! We turned right onto Thorndike and right again onto South State. We ended up parking in the parking lot of the Employment Security building. I hope this is allowed on weekends (I can’t get a ticket after the fact, can I? Gulp!). We pulled into a spot at 12:42 p.m. We then walked down Thompson Street to get to the Capitol Center.
Saturday, 7:20 p.m.: I was hungry, so I decided to head to Subway downtown for a nice cool Italian B.M.T. Maybe it was just too hot and sticky for people to be out and about in the city, because I was able to park almost directly in front of the North Main Street restaurant. I even passed four decent spots (that would have meant a walk of up to about 90 seconds) in the same parking section before I pulled into the second-to-last spot before the intersection with Warren Street. The walk from my car to the front door of Subway took about 12 seconds, though with my sweat-soaked shirt weighing me down it felt like about 2½ minutes. Apart from the oppressive heat and my 13-year-old Pontiac’s lack of air conditioning refrigerant, it was probably my best parking experience of all time.
Saturday, 9:10 p.m.: After a long Saturday that began with a 5K race and ended with house chores, we wanted to check out Dips Frozen Yogurt on Main Street. We were delighted to find it still open. Main Street was busy, so we headed up Park Street in search of a parking spot. There were six to choose from halfway up the street. It would have been worth parking twice as far for the frozen yogurt sundaes we made.
Sunday, 1 p.m.: After our annual meeting for South Church let out, we were hungry. We walked from church at the intersection of Pleasant and South State streets to The Works Cafe, passing many empty parking spots on both Pleasant and Main streets. The bagel shop and Dos Amigos, which is nearby, were both busy, but anyone looking for a parking spot would have had no trouble. We did some window shopping on our walk home and would have purchased a couple of things we saw, but most of the stores on Main Street are unfortunately closed on Sundays. And given our work schedules, that’s when we can linger and shop on Main Street.
Monday, 10:56 a.m.: I turned left from Pleasant Street onto Main Street, hoping to find a spot near CVS. While the car in front of me got the open spot directly in front of the pharmacy’s door, I was able to find one a few spaces down. In fact, there were plenty of spots open, four between Pleasant Street and CVS and three others directly past where I parked. Across the street, I counted at least nine open spots.
Tricia L. Nadolny