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Downtown: More parking for Pillsbury Street?

Facing a shortage of parking at a Pillsbury Street office building, Steve Duprey would like to tear down a house and build a parking lot.

The Concord zoning board rejected Duprey’s application earlier this summer after a neighbor raised concerns, but it will hold a rehearing this week.

Ensuring that parking would not creep onto residential streets was a promise Duprey said he made to South End residents when he redeveloped the former Blue Cross Blue Shield building and opened the office building that stands on the property today.

So when a home at 46 Pillsbury St. was for sale in 2010, Duprey said he purchased it “for protection in case the condominium association which owns 2 Pillsbury Street ever needed it for parking.”

Now, Duprey said, that time has come.

“Even though I thought we made a fairly compelling case, we were denied because one neighbor objected,” he said of the July hearing.

Duprey had requested a zoning variance to demolish the home and replace it with a 34-space parking lot. However, Linda Rost, who lives next to the property, raised concerns

at the hearing, and the variance was denied. The extra parking is not needed, she said.

“I think that a parking lot does not increase the value of my house, and it definitely will not increase its resaleability because . . . the general public does not see a parking lot as a good neighbor,” Rost told the board.

The zoning board voted, 3-2, to deny the variance allowing a parking lot in a residential neighborhood.

“Although I’m certainly sympathetic to the idea that they might need more parking at 2 Pillsbury, and God knows that building was a drag on the market for a long time and the Duprey buildings did a wonderful thing by bringing it back into the mainstream, that doesn’t create a reason for the zoning board to effectively change the zoning on that lot and do something that the next-door neighbors would prefer not be done,” board Chairman Chris Carley said at the July hearing.

Duprey said last week that the parking lot would not be visible from Rost’s home because he would work to provide adequate screening. The condominium association at 2 Pillsbury St. asked him to seek a rehearing; though Duprey redeveloped the office building, tenants own their units as condominiums.

“It’s in my name because I own the property (for the proposed parking lot), but the application is really on behalf of the owners’ condominium association,” Duprey said.

As the building’s parking lot faces a shortage of spaces, Duprey said he has tried to direct visitors to stay away from residential streets. One day last week, he said, “we put signs up everywhere directing people” to other parking lots.

“Nobody likes to be building parking lots, especially when they’re adjacent to residential neighborhoods,” Duprey told the board in July. “We think it’s badly needed.”

The rehearing will be held Wednesday night at 7 in the city council’s chambers.

Credit union on Main Street

New Hampshire Federal Credit Union is opening an office on Main Street.

“We wanted to get back downtown, and we’d been looking to do that for a while,” said Polly Saltmarsh, vice president of member service.

The credit union will keep its offices on Airport Road in Concord, Saltmarsh said, but soon it will also welcome members to a Main Street storefront.

“A lot of our members and a lot of the groups that we serve are on Main Street, and there’s a lot of traffic coming across town now,” Saltmarsh said.

The new office, in the former Caardvark storefront at 47 N. Main St., will open for business in the coming weeks. Caardvark, which sold cards, calligraphy and unusual gifts, closed in 2005.

Saltmarsh said the credit union is looking forward to opening before the holiday season, and it will have holiday loans and other offers.

Lobby gets new look

The Courtyard by Marriott in Concord has a new lobby, complete with a touch-screen “GoBoard” and a bistro that brews Starbucks coffee.

Steve Duprey, whose company owns the hotel on Constitution Avenue, renovated the lobby this year to conform with Marriott corporate designs. That change is required about every five years, and it’s so different that regular customers did not recognize it as the same hotel, he said.

“There’s nothing in here the same,” Duprey said as he walked around the lobby last week.

The striped chairs, green carpet and buffet-style restaurant have been traded in for sleek red chairs and an a-la-carte cafe. Pamela Bissonnette, the hotel’s general manager, said the cafe brews everything on the menu at Starbucks.

On the lobby’s GoBoard – a large touch-screen computer mounted on the wall – guests can find nearby destinations, like a local restaurant, and scan a code to get directions on their smart phone or select an option to print information.

Though the work was required by Marriott, it was completed by Concord-based Milestone Construction and Engineering. The new lobby opened this fall.

“It’s pretty cool the way this changes so dramatically,” Duprey said, describing the requirement to remodel the hotel every few years.

Fresh food in the Endicott

Fresh juice and chopped salads are now available downtown.

Aryn Marsh, who opened Live Juice on the first floor of the Endicott Hotel last month, said customers seem happy with her large and healthy menu.

“The response from the community has been really positive,” she said.

Live Juice is Concord’s first raw juice bar, which is part of the reason why Marsh opened it. She has been making juice in her own kitchen for years, but juicing takes time and energy. That feeling was affirmed by one customer, who told Marsh while paying for her juice that “it’s worth the $6 to not clean my juicer.”

Live Juice also serves smoothies and chopped salads – the shop is busiest at lunchtime, Marsh said. Though the mornings have been slower during the first few weeks of business, Marsh said she also serves steel-cut oats and yogurt parfaits for breakfast, along with coffee, juice and smoothies.

As the weather turns cold, soups are available for lunch. So are tonics – hot drinks to boost the immune system.

Marsh wants her customers to know that all her ingredients are fresh and clean. Her staff arrives at 6:50 every morning to prepare vegetables in a produce washing system before the restaurant opens at 8 a.m.

“Our vegetables get the royal treatment,” she said.

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

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