Editorial: Actually, the city is paying plenty of attention to Penacook
In interviews with nearly two dozen candidates for city office over the past month, Monitor editors heard one theme over and over that seemed remarkably false: City hall, many candidates insisted, doesn’t pay attention to Penacook.
The Penacook-versus-downtown griping is tired, old and – if it was ever true – terribly out of date.
Concord city government is spending considerable energy and taxpayer money on Penacook these days. Just try to drive through the center of the village, and an obstacle course of construction work quickly proves the point.
Consider what’s gone on in just the past few years:
∎ In 2011, the city rejected a suggestion to lift restrictions that prohibited property owners near Exit 17 off Interstate 93 from building a grocery story on their property. City officials worried that such a move would scotch any hope of luring a grocery to Penacook Village, a top goal of many residents.
∎ A portion of the old Penacook tannery site was successfully redeveloped; Concord Hospital’s Penacook Family Physicians moved into a new Crescent Street building in 2011.
∎ The city council agreed last spring to spend an additional $1.74 million on the long-planned reconstruction of Route 3 through the village in order to bury utility lines, at the request of residents. The vote was unanimous.
∎ City crews started work this spring on burying those lines and repairing the Village Street bridge over the Contoocook River (hence the traffic delays).
∎ The city will also improve the village streetscape next year as part of the overall project. (Interested residents can learn about the designs at a Penacook Village Association meeting Saturday at 9 a.m.)
∎ Cleanup of buried leather and demolition debris at the tannery site is scheduled to be complete next summer. No doubt that will make it easier to lure a private developer to the property beyond the doctors’ offices. One plan that fell apart earlier this year envisioned a riverfront park and a new home for the Penacook library as part of the mix.
Among the potential notions for the future: retail development, housing or a small grocery.
We’re not there yet, of course. The Rivco factory still sits vacant. There are empty storefronts in the village. A supermarket remains elusive.
But significant residential growth in and around Penacook, the improvements to Route 3, the planned upgrade to the streetscape and the cleanup at the tannery have put Penacook in a terrific position. Add in the recent renovations to Merrimack Valley High School, the new Penacook elementary school, two new charter schools connected to the MV School District and increased rigor at all grade levels. As the economy rebounds, the village should too.
Rejuvenation in Penacook won’t happen overnight, but the city government is not slacking.