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Concord official recommends several major changes to Main Street project

  • (Illustration: Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

    (Illustration: Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

  • (Illustration: Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

    (Illustration: Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

  • (Illustration: Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

    (Illustration: Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

  • (Illustration: Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)
  • (Illustration: Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)
  • (Illustration: Pixate Solutions for City of Concord)

At a special meeting on the Main Street redesign next week, the Concord City Council could abandon some of the key components that sold the construction project to downtown business owners.

The council has received a preliminary report from Carlos Baia, deputy city manager for development, that recommends several major changes to the project – including doing construction during the day instead of at night and allowing larger work zones for the contractor.

“The night work is just not tenable within the context of this project,” he said in an interview.

The city also wanted to keep 75 percent of parking open at all times during construction; Baia suggests lowering that threshold.

“The contractors told us that was a very high standard to meet,” Baia said.

But Sue McCoo, who owns Capitol Craftsman and Romance Jewelers and the Viking House on Main Street, said doing construction during the day and closing more parking is a “very, very nerve-racking” idea for downtown merchants.

“To do the work (during the day) and not kill everything that’s down here now is going to be a challenge, and that’s what scares me,” McCoo said.

McCoo, who served on the city’s Main Street committee last year, said she knows downtown needs a change. But if the work is going to happen during business hours, she said the construction project needs a contractor “who knows what they’re doing and has done it before and can coordinate it in a mindful manner, not turning the water off in front of the restaurants at lunchtime.”

“Do it, and do it well,” McCoo said.

Gerry Carrier, who owns Little River Oriental Rugs, also said downtown businesses could suffer from construction during business hours.

“If you’re (changing) it to daytime and expanding the area of work that the contractor can do during the day, that’s going to put some of the downtown businesses at a much greater risk,” Carrier said.

The city and business owners would need to be aggressive in attracting shoppers downtown during work, Carrier said. But the public also needs to commit to shopping on Main Street and keeping those businesses alive through construction.

“Otherwise, we won’t have anybody here to enjoy the new downtown,” Carrier said.

To developer Steve Duprey, changing the way work is done would be better than changing what is done – including making building entrances accessible or adding aesthetic details to downtown.

“If any real cuts are made to it, it will make the project substantially less than transformative,” Duprey said.

City staff has been rethinking the Main Street project since two attempts to bid the construction work returned only one offer each time, both significantly more than the city’s budget. In November, Concord received one bid for $12.32 million for what was then expected to be a $6.2 million project. The city raised its estimate to $7.1 million, but a second request for bids yielded only one offer at $13.83 million last month.

Contractors have told city staff that doing the project at night was “significantly problematic,” Baia wrote in his report, enough so to discourage many companies from submitting bids for the work and to inflate the cost of the job.

‘A little bit simpler’

With more flexible parameters during construction, Baia said he believes more companies would bid on the project.

“I would say (city staff has) talked to about a dozen contractors in the region, and their impression is that there is still interest if the project can be made a little bit simpler,” Baia said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Baia will recommend the council rebid the project but use an alternative process that allows for more one-on-one conversation with individual contractors. It’s a way to find a proposal “that makes sense,” he said.

“The contractor would be able to say, ‘Based on my experience, I would suggest X, Y and Z,’ and then we would have a dialogue back and forth,” Baia said. “It becomes more of a working program so you can get to a result that makes both parties satisfied.”

Baia said he hopes to bring a new plan and a contractor to the council for approval in April. Under that timeline, construction could begin as soon as May.

Heated sidewalks

But before city staff begins negotiations with contractors, Baia will also ask the council to make a final decision about the snow-melt system Monday, as Concord Steam representatives have told city staff that it is unlikely their existing plant can heat the sidewalks on Main Street.

“The remaining viable alternative would be a city-owned, gas-fired heating plant to power such a system,” Baia wrote in his report.

When Concord Steam was involved, the cost to install pipes for the sidewalk system was going to add more than $900,000 to the bill for the project. Without Concord Steam, the city would need to spend about $1.5 million to lay those pipes – and pay more than $1 million to build its own facility. Baia estimated the city would need to spend $90,000 to $150,000 each year to heat those sidewalks itself.

With that money on the line, Baia said the council needs to make a decision on the snow-melt system sooner rather than later.

“It’d be easier to address that early on,” Baia said.

Carrier said he and other merchants would be particularly disappointed to lose the snow-melt system, which he said was “one of the big selling points.”

“The heated sidewalks were a huge element in the original proposal that grabbed all the downtown merchants’ attention, and they kind of walked in on that,” Carrier said.

To Duprey, a snow-melt system could be worth the money.

“The heated sidewalks, I think, are a game changer in making us competitive with malls, improving accessibility and making it safer and nicer downtown,” Duprey said.

But McCoo talked about the snow-melt system like it was already gone from the Main Street design, just a wish-list item that would never be realized.

“That would have been fabulous. . . . Just imagine,” she said.

Downtown business owners and city staff are now waiting for the next word from city council, wondering how the project will take shape as Concord tries to start again on Main Street.

“We’re hanging in there, but we’re anxious to see what changes are going to be necessary,” Carrier said.

The council will meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

No trolling here Itsa. Just plain talk. For some reason you have decided you want to "out" me. You do it with your "snyde" little hints. I don't mind using my name, but even Van from your side understood my reason for not doing it. The thing that bothers me is your hypocrisy in trying to "out" me but refusing to be honest about who you are. It doesn't take much brains to figure out who I am, I have written letters to the editor usually on the same subjects I post on here, but I would expect the same respect for my privacy that you seem to want for yourself. But with the rude remark about my age you also made I should have known better.

What are you talking about. I used "snyde" once and you corrected me with "snide"....so when I deal with you I use "snyde" now as you were correct, but I use it as tongue in cheek. What that has to do with "outing" you, I don't know. Age remark? Again, over sensitive, my point was that you were not around when Native Americans roamed the plains yet you thought that you could tell us what they were thinking....unless you were around then? What are you talking about??????? Nothing personal.

Something occurred to me while I was having a fit of laughter over the need for city owned heating system for the side walks. Something so basic that i must have missed it's initial proposal. Why not just make main street one-way and make Storrs St one way the other. Make it 3 lanes and use the existing forth for widening the sidewalks and then supply the merchants with new ergonomic snow shovels for their section of the sidewalk. You could buy alot of shovels for $1.1million. Sarcasm aside what is the down side to a one-way main street?

One more take-away on this.......it illustrates that "steam" is just another alternative energy pipe dream. Face it, we need the BTU of natural gas and oil......

Curious here about something. Steam is an alternative energy pipe dream???? You want to reconsider that interesting ideam. Since steam pre-dates natural gas, coal and oil. Steam is not a source it a result. All electricity is generated by steam, this excludes solar, wind and hydo power. Energy lesson 101- a nuclear plant generates heat which creates steam which, turns the turbine, an oil plant create steam which.... the same with natural gas. Hardly even 20th century technology. So what was your point.

My point was the cost of delivery of the steam and the reliability of it.

democrats control Concord and as always the democrats inherent inability to know the difference between "wants" and "needs" kicks into full gear..... meanwhile the Seewall Falls bridge decays into the river

Is there a way to get the other roadways to the Monitor to decay? No access to the building, no propaganda spewed forth day after day.

“The remaining viable alternative would be a city-owned, gas-fired heating plant to power such a system,” Baia wrote in his report."....Wait..what? HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA..."Without Concord Steam, the city would need to spend about $1.5 million to lay those pipes – and pay more than $1 million to build its own facility.."..wait..what?? HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA..Are these people for real?????

I see some of the "beautiful people" of Concord in these renderings. How wonderful and I see cultural diversity on display in these renderings but these are only an idea of what it will be like. They do offer accuracy as to how many people will be on the street at the same time.....very few.

I do notice that there doesn't seem to be anyone depicted who is over 50??? And certainly no one of retirement age.

They could save money by leaving the Clock right where it is! If the goal is to bring in more business and customers to downtown; then why on earth would you take away parking spaces? There are too few now located next to businesses. Not everyone can walk 1/2 a mile between where they want to shop and the parking garage.

Why dont they show what it will look like in the winter...????

Well GWTW, if they showed a winter scene we would see all the homeless camping out on the heated sidewalks.

Gee, if I didn't know any better I might think that is an insensitive "snarky" remark.

Always a negative comment, never adding anything to the debate. I believe that was a "snyde" remark, you seem to have those down pat.

Itsa, still so ashamed of how you think that you still won't put your name to your posts? I have never written anything I am ashamed of, or would not want a potential employer to read.

What ARE you talking about. Please stop the trolling.

Tillie, how about we try to focus on the future rather than the past?

I do think the picnic tables for the street people, is a nice touch.

Not only that, they make a nice bench to sleep on at night.

I was thinking the same thing Rabbit. If I were homeless that's where I'd be...imagine their nice warm buns.

That's why heated sidewalks are a must. I also think a liquor store would do a staggering business in the Phenix Hall complex.

Yup Walham Watch, a Liquor Store that stocks a lot of Ripple, paper bag included.

I'd like to see what the trees will look like in 25 years.

make that a year and a half.

The illustrations with this article show only a few cars and that is probably a good assessment of what will happen. No parking = no cars, no cars = no shoppers, = no business. LOL

One of the biggest concerns I have had in the past about construction projects in and around Concord, is that the construction companies seem to barricade and deconstruct large areas of the overall job site, and then for many days, sometimes weeks, they rebuild only a small portion of the new area at a time. Nighttime verses daytime working hours is not going to change this, and actually performing the work at night is likely to increase the duration of the overall project. It is surely frustrating for both business and their customers to see access impacted by ongoing construction, that seems to be going nowhere on a daily basis. Where the City of Concord can do better, especially concerning downtown business, parking and street access, is for an informed and empowered city employee to provide guidance to both downtown businesses and the construction companies, on the extent of near-term deconstruction and reconstruction work, on a week by week basis. The Concord Monitor, through their paper and web site, could share these details with the community at large, so everyone can make plans regarding planned work.

So we have heated sidewalks and the property owners are fine with paying the heating costs? What about rain, should we also cover main street, if we do that we wouldn't need the heated sidewalks, humm. Perhaps we could find a contractor that could do all the work offsite and airlift in the completed street so business isn't disrupted. Lastly we could outlaw internet shopping and divert RT 93 through downtown to attract more people. Someone should remind the Main Street Committee and city council that recreational pot use isn't legal yet, I'd hate to see their meetings raided. Oh wait now I get it, this was a tongue in cheek column good one Megan.

Steven Duprey basically says - I don't care how much of other people’s money must be spent to enhance my buildings. Just keep tacking on the $$$$$ as he knows the 20% public sector of money will eventually be paid by the tax payers and all the add on costs will be paid by the taxpayers - not the property owners along the street. ....... Stay tuned for Phase 8 of The Big Dig of Concord.

Jim, you're right on target.

Good parallel. But ask anyone in Boston if the Big Dig was worth it -- they will say yes.

So the ends justify the means?

As for the big dig, it's purpose was to get traffic off of the city streets.Concord wants to get more traffic to the stores by reducing the number of lanes.

Everything seems to be pointing in this direction doesn't it.

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