Hot Topic: What’s next for Concord's Main Street?
The Facebook page of Intown Concord has been home to an interesting debate about the future of the Main Street redesign project after the city’s second round of bidding for the construction brought just one bid – and it came in twice as expensive as officials anticipated. Here’s what participants had to say:
Holli Hamel Siff: It will take more than moving a clock and screwing with parking spaces to make a vibrant downtown. Perhaps there needs to be more research into why no one is bidding. It would be nice if the least-disruptive course could be taken. The shop owners are barely holding their own. The disruption may just finish off some of them.
I am for progress, but at what cost? Drive around, all across New Hampshire and across America. There are plenty of empty storefronts in so many towns. Life will come to Main Street when more diverse and viable businesses opt to move to Main Street. Somehow taking more parking spaces away doesn’t seem like the best solution.
Angel Pelillo: I like the pocket park idea, but I think moving the clock is unnecessary. Why not just get a bunch of local volunteers to make that space a micro-park? There are lots of groups I bet would be willing to take on that project – not the least of which are Concord High students looking for community service experience/credit.
The rest is fluff. The beauty of a historic main street is it doesn’t need to be modernized all that much. Not only is this project going to use lots of taxpayer dollars when there are far more pressing issues to address, but it will ultimately raise taxes for the small businesses on Main Street after the “beautification.” I wonder how many of our local businesses will be able to stick around after reduced sales through construction and then higher fees afterward.
Angela Snell: Moving the clock tower seems hugely wasteful and completely unnecessary.
Pam Pisano Barton: It’s not necessary.
Kevin Twombly: It’s very necessary. Let’s bring some real life back to downtown Concord instead of all the empty storefronts.
Brent Ladman: There are two major location-based complaints that my wife gets for her Main Street business:
1. I can never find a place to park.
2. The intersections of North Main and Park streets and North Main and Capitol streets are deathtraps during business hours, with four lanes of busy traffic to cross to get from where you parked on a side street to where you need to stop and do business.
While I don’t think the plan directly alleviates the lack of parking, I do think that a change in traffic patterns with less lanes to cross, specific turning and turn-around zones, and wider sidewalks amounts to a huge improvement for storefront accessibility.
Also, while the up-front costs of the buried utilities may be hard to swallow, the long-term benefits and cost savings from less snow removal hassle and ice build up are tremendous, especially considering how difficult it is for Concord to find money this year to haul that snow out to somewhere else.
Jim Graham: I really love the concept of this project. And one way to ease the expected cost down the line: take the unnecessary, wasteful and disruptive Langley Parkway extension off the books and out of the master plan for good.
Jim Graham: The biggest challenge: Shifting our community’s thinking from this being all about Main Street and traffic and parking to being about the creation of a vibrant, live-able, walk-able downtown that defines the city’s character and which makes Concord a destination. Concord has such tremendous potential to be more than a place defined by the Monday-Friday, 9-5 work week. Still have a ways to go on that front.
Steve Duprey: If Main Street continues to look shopworn, tired, rundown and inaccessible and is unsafe to cross the streets, no merchants will come to set up business.
There are lots of ways to add parking.
Steve Duprey: The thinking behind moving the clock was that it blocked the view and entrance of one of Concord’s bigger public spaces – Eagle Square.
This project is necessary if you believe having a vibrant downtown is important for both business and a sense of community. If not, you don’t do the project.
I would suggest that the way forward is to find a way to pay for it. Let’s make a comparison:
Between money spent to bury utilities underground, redo the main street in the Penacook Village area, and the combination of federal state and local money spent on the undeveloped tannery site, that totals almost $9 million.
This project, with a far greater population utilizing the area and a much larger percentage of Concord’s tax base,which would improve and create new tax revenue, is $13 million.
If $9 million is a good and fair investment for Penacook, certainly $13 million for the heart of our downtown is equally good.
Nicholas Joseph: We really ought not miss this opportunity. And I agree with some other points made that there are some other problems concerning downtown. Much of those, I think, are perception related.