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Downtown: Employment Security site draws interest from developers

Developers have shown interest in the Employment Security headquarters on South Main Street, and they’re asking the city for more time to submit plans.

But city officials can’t say who they are – or what they’d like to build.

“I will say that there are multiple interested parties,” said Matt Walsh, the city’s assistant for special projects.

The city is seeking a private developer to demolish the existing structure and build apartments with retail, restaurant or office space. The site could hold a new city library, if a developer pursues that idea.

At the request of those developers, the city has extended its deadline to submit proposals, said Walsh.

One developer will eventually enter a public-private partnership to redevelop the site. The city is working with the state employment security agency, which plans to relocate its headquarters to the New Hampshire Hospital campus and sell its property at 32-34 S. Main St.

A formal request for proposals was issued in January, and Walsh said the “third and final” deadline extension came this week. Developers now must submit plans by May 15. A finalist will likely be selected by the city council and announced this summer.

Some initial interest in the property came from out-of-state developers, City Manager Tom Aspell said at his state of the city address to the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce in February.

Officials “certainly recognize and sympathize that people are curious about what might happen with such an important piece of property downtown,” Walsh said last week, but he’s unable to comment on the developers who have shown an interest in the site.

Concord developer Steve Duprey said in January that he would “take a hard look” at the site and decide whether to submit a proposal. He did not return a message about the site last week. Duprey has redeveloped two other properties on South Main Street; the Smile Building opened in 2011 and a building on the former site of the New Hampshire Bindery is set to open this summer.

The Employment Security building dates to 1927, but the current structure along South Main Street was built in 1958. That turquoise facade – and

likely the building itself – will be demolished when construction begins next year.

While the city will not require a developer to demolish the building, its request for proposals requires a facade that matches “the 19th century brick character of downtown Concord.”

Though the city’s guidelines cite a preference for market-rate housing on the Employment Security site, it’s up to developers to propose their own “mixed use development,” or some combination of housing, restaurants, retail, office space, arts or cultural uses or a city library.

Bread on North State

After the reconstruction of North State Street eliminated parking spaces in front of Diane Romagnoli’s bakery, she decided to give up on her retail business.

Then three young customers came to visit Good Bread Co. on North State Street, where Romagnoli was still making Craquelins gourmet crackers to sell at farmers markets and retail stores.

“We want you to be the neighborhood bakery,” the middle-school-aged boys told her. “We’ll do whatever we can to help you.”

So Romagnoli is trying again. Every Sunday in May, she’ll open Good Bread at 205 N. State St. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. During that trial run, she’ll sell Craquelins and her three most popular breads.

“Our goal is to see if people will come to a bakery with no parking if they’ll find our products good enough to park on the street,” she said.

Romagnoli moved her business to 205 N. State St. in July 2011. That November, she opened the “bread-themed” bakery.

Before construction began on North State Street, Romagnoli sad she had two parking spaces in front of Good Bread. Now, she has a loading zone and nearby street parking.

She sells Craquelins at the Concord Farmers Market, the Concord Food Co-op, the Corner Cupboard and nearly 30 other locations in New England.

“But what we really wanted was a little bakery space to take off,” Romagnoli said. “And the three boys that came in just really brought that home to me. . . . They really talked me into giving it a try.”

A golden milestone

Mark Knipe has made engagement rings, custom jewelry items and crosses for two episcopal bishops. But he doesn’t have a favorite piece.

“I don’t think I do,” Knipe said. “We’ve made so many things over the years.”

His shop, Mark Knipe Goldsmiths, is celebrating 40 years of making jewelry and 25 years of selling it downtown.

This week, the store will mark the milestone with a sale and a special display. The shop’s gallery features some of the first pieces Knipe made in the 1960s – though they’re not for sale.

Knipe previously taught jewelry making at Concord High School. Now, he spends his time at a bench in the back of his shop, “sitting here and working by hand.”

He and his wife, Heidi, opened their first jewelry shop 25 years ago on South State Street. They’ve been on North Main Street for 20 years, but before they opened any shop they sold jewelry from their home.

Finding a new front door

Creative Concord is searching for creative ideas for Concord’s backside.

The committee of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce is seeking to improve the view of Concord from Interstate 93. They’re hosting a brainstorming event this week for their “Concord’s New Front Door” initiative, to list ideas for public art, landscaping and other ways to draw visitors into the city.

At a charrette on Wednesday, the group will collect ideas to improve the view of Concord between exits 13 and 14 on I-93.

The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Grappone Conference Center.

A big ‘thank you’

Intown Concord wants to thank volunteers – and recruit more.

On Thursday, the nonprofit is hosting its annual volunteer appreciation event. Residents interested in volunteering in Concord may attend to learn about new opportunities, according to Intown Concord’s newsletter.

The evening will include free appetizers from O Steaks and Seafood and a screening of an Oscar-nominated short film.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Red River Theatres.

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

Let Dupree put a new building up at employment security, he should keep going until they are all brand new. I think he should run for Mayor.

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