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Owners of Company C to weigh options before deciding whether to relocate to Main Street

The owners of Company C said yesterday they remain “very supportive” of efforts to redevelop downtown Concord but must evaluate a “number of options” before deciding whether to relocate to Main Street and partner with Steve Duprey to redevelop the state Employment Security building.

“We look forward to productive discussions with the city in the coming weeks,” said Walter Chapin, who owns Company C with his wife, in an email yesterday. Chapin declined to say whether Company C, a high-end home decor design studio on Old Turnpike Road, is also looking at new locations outside the city.

After several months of nonpublic deliberations, the city council on Monday selected Duprey and Chapin over another development team to redevelop the Employment Security building at 32 S. Main St., which will be vacant next year when the office relocates its headquarters. But the city’s decision came months after Chapin and Duprey expected it, and Company C had begun looking at other locations in the meantime, Duprey said yesterday.

“While the selection process has been time-consuming, it has allowed time to survey a number of options for the future location of our business,” Chapin wrote in his email. “We will be evaluating our choices and make decisions based on what works best for us.”

It was unclear what prompted Chapin to seek a new location for its design space and retail store, which is currently at 102 Old Turnpike Road, across from the city’s transfer station. Chapin declined to be interviewed beyond his emailed statement. The owners of the building, the Cook family, who also owns Concord Litho, did not return a message yesterday.

Duprey said yesterday that he hoped to know Chapin’s decision within the next few weeks. Without Company C, Duprey said he will be unable to get the tax credits needed to make the redevelopment plan viable. He said he chose Company C for the new space because he believes the retail store would draw tourists off the highway to Main Street.

Company C has two other retail locations, one in Portland, Maine, and another in Hingham, Mass. Walter and Chris Chapin started the business in a garage in 1994 and now have more than 1,000 dealers worldwide, according to the company’s website. They sell bright-colored rugs and home accessories and have their own line of furniture.

“While our downtown needs to make sure we have grocery stores and shoe repair stores and hair salons, we also need to mix in the kind of retail that will pull people off the highway,” Duprey said. “This is the kind of retailer you want.”

Duprey elaborated yesterday on his plans for the Employment Security site if his project moves forward. He will leave the building in place but put a new facade on the front. He would keep the parking lot behind the building, with the possibility of building a 30- to 50-unit apartment or condominium building above it.

He has no plans to buy the neighboring buildings that house the Eagles Club and the Concord Feminist Health Center but said he’d consider it if those entities wanted to move and the property was offered at the “right price.”

The city has discussed building a new library closer to downtown. Duprey said he could include the library in his plans but doing so would require buying the entire block that houses the Employment Security building and razing the properties there, including the Employment Security building. He said the city must decide whether it wants to pursue a new library.

“Without the library, our plan is to keep the existing (Employment Security) building and move Company C downtown,” he said.

Asked whether he was frustrated with the city’s pace in choosing a development team for the site, Duprey said: “I’m in the development business, so I understand this. The city’s goal is to get the most transformative project it can, and they had a couple of good proposals and followed a good process. Obviously, Company C is in the business of designing great products, and they are not that familiar with the development process.

“Yes,” Duprey said, “it’s a little frustrating, but we understand that and (Company C) does, too.”

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323 or atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

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