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Manchester sports center plans to buy, redevelop Concord Raquet Club

The Racquet Club of Concord could be sold and redeveloped into an upgraded athletic center and wellness clinic.

The owners of Executive Health & Sports Center in Manchester plan to purchase the Garvins Falls Road property and redevelop it, said Matt Walsh, the city’s assistant for special projects. The Concord City Council voted last night to apply for a $500,000 grant that would be loaned to the new owners for their $5.1 million redevelopment project.

“It’s a rather ambitious project,” Walsh said.

Concord A.C. Tennis Division Inc. currently owns the property. The owners of Executive Health & Sports Center in Manchester have a purchase-and-sales agreement that is expected to close in September, Walsh wrote in a report to the mayor and city council.

The new owners have a tentative plan to improve the existing facility and add a wellness clinic.

The city will apply for an economic development grant distributed annually by the state’s Community Development Finance Authority on a competitive basis. The funding comes from the federal government’s Community Development Block Grant Program.

The project qualifies for the grant because it will create jobs for people of low and moderate income, Walsh wrote in his report.

Councilor Keith Nyhan asked whether a private company should qualify for grant money.

“I’m having a difficult time seeing the needs,” he said.

City Manager Tom Aspell said the economic development category in the grant is different than other grant projects. It helps the city expand its tax base, he said, and will help turn a financially struggling business into a successful one.

The racquet club property has an assessed value of $2.06 million, according to the city’s records.

The property now has $136,000 in unpaid property taxes, Walsh said. A.C. Tennis Division Inc. is also behind on its repayment of a 2009 city loan. The owners owe $63,000 to the city’s revolving loan fund program, Walsh said. The loan funded the creation of child care facilities at the racquet club.

Walsh said the city will likely receive the loan repayment and unpaid property taxes through the property sale.

Councilor Fred Keach asked that the city work to recoup the unpaid bills.

“I think that should be a priority,” he said.

If the state approves the grant application, the city will sub-grant it to the Capital Regional Development Council. The money would then be loaned to the new buyers, and subject to negotiations – repayments would be made to a revolving loan fund that supports economic development in Concord.

Resident Roy Schweiker questioned whether the city should use its staff and resources to obtain grants for private developers. Walsh said the city typically charges an administrative fee for grant applications.

Also last night, the city council authorized grant applications for three other projects. They would also come from the Community Development Block Grant program.

∎ The Children’s Place and Parent Education Center is seeking $200,000 for capital improvements to its property on Burns Avenue, including a new roof and new heating and air conditioning system.

∎ The Women’s Club of Concord is renovating its property on Pleasant Street, and requested $216,053 in grant funding.

∎ The Belknap-Merrimack County Community Action Program is seeking $190,000 to serve more children at its Head Start center on Old Loudon Road. The grant would cover the installation of a new fire suppression system that would allow the center to expand from 108 to 145 students.

Loudon Road development

Loudon Road is getting a new retail center, and Old Loudon Road is getting a new intersection.

The city council unanimously approved an agreement last night for developers to purchase state and city property across from Steeplegate Mall.

Siena Bodwell Joint Venture Group, which includes members of the D’Amante family, plan to build a 31,000-square-foot retail center on the property, said Deputy City Manager for Development Carlos Baia.

The developers will also reconstruct the intersection of Old Loudon Road and Loudon Road. It will align with D’Amante Drive, and the existing intersection will become a dead end.

Councilor Candace Bouchard asked whether the new intersection would increase traffic or affect the intersection of Old Loudon Road and Portsmouth Street. Baia said potential effects will be addressed as the designs go before the planning board.

Development on the state and city land was proposed five years ago as a 125,000-square-foot retail center that included private property on the other side of Old Loudon Road. But the plan stalled in the fall of 2008 due to the poor economy.

Tenants have not yet been announced for the new, smaller development. Construction is expected to begin next spring.

Parking at school

There are new parking restrictions in front of Abbot-Downing School.

The city’s traffic operations committee began studying parking along Conant Drive, South Street and Rundlett Street last fall.

To improve traffic flow around the elementary school, the council last night expanded on-street parking restrictions along portions of South Street, Conant Drive, Winant Drive, Bow Street and Carter Street.

Nyhan suggested the council also encourage the school district to reconsider bus routes and traffic flow in front of the school.

Conservation on Stickney Hill

Another property off Stickney Hill Road will soon be protected as conservation land. The council voted last night to support an easement on Hope Zanes’s 15.67-acre property on Stickney Hill Road.

The land is one parcel away from the 78-acre Maplewood Farm. An easement was placed on that property last year. The city contributed $340,000 toward that easement, and Zanes offered at the time to place an easement on her nearby property.

Zanes will still own the property, and the city won’t spend any money on the easement held by Five Rivers Conservation Trust.

The easement will permanently protect the property and prohibit future development.

Under its executory interest in the easement, the city would only become involved if Five Rivers Conservation Trust ceases to exist or fails to enforce it, according to a report from the conservation commission.

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

I wonder if the Concord City Council would give me some start up money, to start a business?

Won't be long now until they rename Concord "Grant City". Grants to stop future building, grants to private business to build more.

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