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Downtown: Concord looks to ‘cut the red tape’ for Main Street parking

It now takes at least two months to create, eliminate or change parking spaces in Concord. That could change this fall, when construction begins on Main Street.

The city council will vote next month on whether to give City Manager Tom Aspell greater authority over downtown parking. The change would mean he could change parking regulations on a moment’s notice, instead of requiring a public hearing and city council vote.

If the measure is approved, officials will look to change time limits or meters on Main Street parking spaces and create temporary loading zones, said Matt Walsh, the city’s assistant for special projects.

Mayor Jim Bouley said he hopes they will also open new parking on Storrs Street, where some spaces have been closed since the city built the Capital Commons parking garage.

“There’s no reason in my mind why we can’t open that back up to parking,” Bouley said.

Bouley said he asked Aspell to put this item on the city council’s agenda after hearing feedback from downtown business owners and other residents.

“It’s not just the reaction to the construction,” Bouley said. “It’s also finding other opportunities that are not currently there.”

For example, Bouley said the city may be able to find designated parking for employees of downtown businesses during construction, which would free additional spaces for customers.

“And I think it’s worth the public discussion to talk about, ‘Could we use those spots for that type of purpose?’ ” he said.

Because the Main Street redesign will constantly alter the flow of traffic and avail

ability of downtown parking, the measure will offer flexibility “to move deftly in terms of changing parking,” Aspell said earlier this month.

Construction is scheduled to begin in September to reduce Main Street from four lanes to two lanes with a crossable median, widen sidewalks and add landscaping and public art. The project will be completed by 2015.

Walsh said parking won’t necessarily change on a daily basis. But it could change weekly or monthly depending on the area of the street that is under construction. The change to the code of ordinances will also require the city to provide public notice of any changes.

“It’s really just trying to cut the red tape so we can be as responsive as possible in a timely manner,” Walsh said.

The city council will hold a public hearing and vote about the change – which will allow the city manager to alter parking during any construction project – at its Aug. 12 meeting.

Cash for the Cap Center

The Capitol Center for the Arts got a big boost last week, with an award and grant from Citizens Bank.

The nonprofit performing arts center on South Main Street was honored as a “Champion in Action” for arts and culture. That title comes with a $35,000 grant.

“It’s been wonderful to feel special and to be able to have it help the Capitol Center continue on its work, because we are climbing out of a tough year,” said the center’s Executive Director Nicolette Clarke, citing a blizzard, Hurricane Sandy and a power outage. “So this award couldn’t come at a better time.”

The award includes volunteer and promotional support for the next six months.

“We get to work with the PR firm from Citizens (Bank), and they’re trying to help us get the CCA name and brand out further than we usually can do on our own,” Clarke said.

Clarke will also participate in a “president-to-president” mentoring program with Citizens Bank of New Hampshire President Joe Carelli; her first one-on-one session is scheduled for August.

Though the grant money can be used for operational costs, Clarke said it will also go to future planning for the performing arts center.

“We want to make sure we direct some of our money to this planning effort,” she said. “People forget that we’re going into our 18th season, so a lot of our systems and equipment are wearing out. And we really need to pull together exactly what we’re going to do to make sure that we’re a really relevant and exciting performing arts center.”

The Capitol Center received the award to recognize “its role in driving economic activity and spurring economic development in the South Main Street neighborhood of Concord,” according to a release from Citizens Bank.

The center hosted a ceremony with the bank Thursday that included a performance from the youth theater group RB Productions. Students from the program are in residence at the Capitol Center this summer.

Dresses on the move

Dress Barn has vacated its Fort Eddy Plaza storefront, where it was until this summer, but it will soon reopen a new store at Steeplegate Mall. Construction is already under way for the new Dress Barn at the mall, said Steeplegate Mall General Manager Joe Eaton.

“They’re taking three spaces and all three were vacant up there, too, so it’s a very big store,” Eaton said, adding that the move is exciting news for the mall.

The new 7,000-square-foot Dress Barn will occupy space that has been vacant for about two years, including the former Waldenbooks store. Eaton expects Dress Barn to open in September.

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

Legacy Comments1

Just another way of taking the power from the people? After construction is finished, will they go back to a public hearing to make changes in the parking regulations?

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