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City officials mum on behind-the-scenes developments in Main Street project

Concord has narrowed its search for a general contractor on the Main Street project to one firm.

And that’s about all city officials will say on the matter.

That firm is still nameless. Negotiations are ongoing but top secret, so the scope and price of the project are still under wraps. There’s no money allotted for the project in City Manager Tom Aspell’s proposed budget, because no one knows for sure what it will cost. The Concord City Council meets tonight, but the future of the downtown redesign isn’t on the agenda.

“That will not come to the council on Monday,” Aspell said last week.

In April, two general contractors submitted their qualifications to be considered for the construction job. Each gave the city a description of its approach to the Main Street project – including details such as how crews would navigate downtown parking and when the work would be done during the day. The city is now working with one of those contractors to outline a plan and price for the Main Street redesign.

“We’re still trying to get the best project to the best price,” Aspell said.

In order to stay on schedule with the construction project, Aspell said he expected the city council to convene a special meeting this month to hear the new proposal. The council has to sign off on the job before Concord can hire a general contractor.

“Whatever we bring to the city council in terms of information, I think they’re going to want to digest it and to take public comment,” Aspell said.

The Concord City Council isn’t the only group waiting for more on the downtown project. Downtown business owners, especially those with shops and storefronts along Main Street, are in limbo as well. Among them is Sue McCoo, who owns both the Viking House and Capital Craftsmen and Romance Jewelers.

“I wish I knew more about what was going on,” McCoo said. “It would be kind of nice to hear it and see it.”

McCoo participated in weeks of public meetings on the city’s project advisory committee in 2012, but she too is just waiting to see how this project shapes up.

“I haven’t got a clue,” McCoo said.

In its original form, the Main Street project would redesign and rebuild 12 blocks of the downtown corridor. The city projected the total bill would be $10.35 million, and a $4.71 million grant would cover part of that cost. In two previous attempts to hire a contractor, Concord has rejected two proposals that were both almost double the budget for construction.

One of the wild cards is a downtown snow-melt system. Concord Steam was originally supposed to heat the reconstructed sidewalks with a new plant in the South End, but those plans fell through. When city staff brings its report on Main Street to the council, the group will have to nail down the cost for Concord to build a plant and operate that system itself.

When Concord Steam was still involved, the cost to install pipes for that system was more than $900,000. City staff estimated in February that Concord would need to spend about $1.5 million to lay those pipes itself – and pay more than $1 million to build its own plant. Operating the snow-melt system would cost $90,000 to $150,00 each year, city staff predicted.

City staff members have remained positive but tight-lipped. More details are part of what City Engineer Ed Roberge called “a confidential realm.”

“We’re working really closely, and things are really, I would say, positive,” Roberge said.

For now, that’s about it.

“There’s not much more that I can say other than stay tuned,” Roberge said.

Concord Handmade – on wheels

Concord Handmade will open a mobile shop this summer.

Since 2011, Alison Murphy has run the pop-up shop during the winter holidays. She sells some of her own handmade clothing and leather goods, along with a range of products from local artists.

Murphy is fixing up a 14-foot trailer that she hopes will open as a new Concord Handmade venue by the end of June.

“It’s a 1970s camper, so it needed a lot of work to turn it into a shop,” Murphy said.

She hopes to sell in some of the downtown squares, though she’s open to requests and suggestions. Murphy said she’ll most likely be open Fridays and Saturdays.

“The idea is everything is handmade in the shop from New England artists, to be able to have an outlet for artists to sell their work locally and for people to have a place to buy handmade,” Murphy said.

Watch the Concord Handmade Facebook page for updates on the mobile shop’s official opening.

Siam Orchid moves this week

Today is Siam Orchid’s last day on the corner of North Main and Centre streets. On Thursday, the Thai restaurant’s new location will open at 12 N. Main St.

Owner Tom Saktanaset opened Siam Orchid in the Vegas Block storefront almost 20 years ago. In 2009, he bought the new building down the road and announced his plans to move the restaurant.

“My building here is like my house,” he said. But he wanted more parking for his customers, and years of preparation have gone into making the lower-level dining room in his new building accessible for diners with disabilities.

Like the address, Siam Orchid’s menu will change slightly with the move. But Saktanaset said customer favorites will be coming out of his new kitchen Thursday.

“Whatever they like, I keep it,” he said.

Siam Orchid will be closed tomorrow and Wednesday before reopening Thursday.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

Legacy Comments4

Funny how nobody inquired how the town has gotten around the federal procurement requirements as per CFR Code of Federal Regulations and A-122 - cost Principles and OMB -87

There's about as much contractor interest in this project, as there are taxpayers willing to pay for it.

Main Street project - After all this time I have yet to hear/read where the 20% "private" money is coming from to pay for this.

That's easy...from the $2500 per year obamacare savings we all will realize.

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