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Concord City Council accepts design – without roundabout – for Main Street

Preliminary designs for Concord’s Main Street include parallel parking along one side of the street and closing Phenix Avenue to create a pocket park – but not a roundabout at the corner of Main and Pleasant streets.

The Concord City Council accepted the preliminary designs last night for the city’s redesign of 12 blocks of Main Street, for which the city received a $4.71 million federal grant. The council will approve final designs this spring, and construction is scheduled to begin in September.

The council also received cost estimates for aspects of the project last night, but did not make decisions about the project’s budget.

Heating the roadway in addition to the sidewalks would raise the project’s overall cost to $11 million, said engineering consultant Gene McCarthy. The city had previously projected a total cost of $7.85 million. Concord Steam’s planned plant in the South End could provide enough energy to heat the entire street with an underground network of pipes, McCarthy said, but the city council must decide how much to spend on the project. Heating only the sidewalk would have a total project cost of $6.88 million.

Councilors said they would need more specific cost estimates before they could make decisions.

“I’m craving information; I’m not getting it,” said Ward 7 Councilor Keith Nyhan.

City Engineer Ed Roberge and members of the city’s design team presented images and designs last night. Plans include narrowing the street to two travel lanes with a crossable center median, widening sidewalks and adding public art.

Roberge did not discuss a previously presented roundabout at the corner of Main and Pleasant streets; the council then voted to end consideration of that design.

“I think it would be good for the public to understand that a roundabout was not in consideration,” Mayor Jim Bouley said.

The design would eliminate about 18 total parking spaces, McCarthy said. Most of the lost spaces are along North Main Street.

“I continue to say I hope you look at maximizing parking as much as you possibly can,” Bouley said.

On the sidewalk in front of the State House, architect Johnathan Law said he recommends adding fountains to attract families to the area during the summer months and a granite seat with landscaping to show the importance of the State House building.

Phenix Avenue, between Phenix Hall and CVS, could have landscaping, seating or public art. It “brings color and texture to the street,” Law said.

Jim Rosenberg, vice president of the law firm Shaheen & Gordon on Storrs Street, asked that the city not close Phenix Avenue. Members of his firm use Phenix Avenue as a passageway, and he worried about access for delivery trucks and emergency vehicles if the street were closed.

McCarthy said the designers will work to provide pedestrian access through Phenix Avenue.

Councilors had several questions about Phenix Avenue, but they allowed the designers to move forward with the designs.

“I’m having faith” that concerns will be addressed, said Ward 3 Councilor Jan McClure.

Engineers are currently reviewing an idea to bury utility lines on South Main Street. Roberge wrote in a report to the mayor and city council engineers are working with local utility companies and evaluating whether that project can be included in the Main Street redesign.

Also last night, the council accepted a report from the city’s parking committee to explore hiring a communications or marketing professional during construction.

The professional would “mitigate the inconvenience of the construction period and positively carry the city’s message,” Deputy City Manager for Development wrote in a report from the parking committee.

Last night was the first time designers presented specific cost estimates. Among the numbers provided:

∎ $4,110,000 for paving the roadway and sidewalks.

∎ $1,130,000 for amenities such as benches and landscaping.

∎ $800,000 for lighting.

The project’s design team includes engineering firm McFarland Johnson, landscape architecture firm Carol R. Johnson Associates, local historic preservationist Liz Hengen, Independent Archeology Consultants and environmental consulting firm GZA GeoEnvironmental.

The design team will hold public meetings on March 12 and April 16, with another city council hearing scheduled for May 13.

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

The Steeplegate Mall has been doing pooly for quite a while and did file bankrupcy a few years ago. Loudon Road draws everybody with WalMart, Target, Best Buy etc. And of course all the foodie places. Not often do you see many folks shopping in that Mall. Many of the stores there just do not do well. Stores like Chicos and Talbots are always empty. Their clothing is high priced, and like many stores downtown, there is no income level here that can afford the cost. I did hear that Best Buy is closing 400 stores and Sears has been dying for years. The new Merrimack Outlets will kill the Tilton outlets for sure.

How about the Deputy City Manager for Development handle the task to “mitigate the inconvenience of the construction period and positively carry the city’s message,” kind of sounds like their job. There is the Concord Development Newsletter that is already produced, could that be a tool. Must a new person or group be hired for every task????

Jim, that would make too much sense. Besides, the politicians have a lot of people to thank.

I believe the Malls must be really concerned about this project going forward. When all this is complete, I'm sure there isn't a person in the state that won't want to shop downtown Concord. If they decide to put fountains and granite benches in front of the state house, to attract families, the malls might as well close their doors.

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