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Downtown: Concord police, officials addressing loitering concerns

Concord police officers will be biking and walking around Main Street this spring.

The attention comes in response to business owners’ concerns of people loitering outside stores and intimidating customers, said police Chief John Duval. He also has received complaints of public intoxication and public urination in the downtown area.

Duval and City Manager Tom Aspell attended an informal meeting last month with a group of downtown business owners to talk about their concerns.

Aspell said some of the complaints were addressed immediately; lights were out in Eagle Square and he had them replaced the next day.

City Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton said she has recently heard from business owners who are concerned about activity in Eagle Square, including public drug use.

“I brought these concerns to the city administration and they took immediate action, including increased police foot patrols in the area,” she said. “The business owners have reported back to me that there’s been a marked improvement in the area, but they continue to have some concerns with loitering.”

A group of merchants submitted a letter to city officials last week, complaining of increased loitering and panhandling downtown, especially around Eagle Square.

“As a result, the downtown retail customer base has voiced their disappointment in the overall shopping environment,” the letter says. “Our customers are reluctant to come downtown for fear of being harassed for money as well as a concern for their own personal safety.”

The letter, which is signed “the downtown merchants” but does not include any of their names, will be referred to the public safety advisory board at tonight’s city council meeting. That board will determine whether other action or a new city ordinance could address these complaints.

“We’re going to take a look at the whole gamut of issues,” Aspell said.

As the weather gets warmer, Duval said, officers will spend time walking and biking downtown, as they did in the South End last summer.

“We had some great success with proactive policing,” Duval said. “So that strategy is going to move to other parts of the city.”

That “proactive policing” will also be used to address complaints elsewhere in the city, Duval said. In the downtown area, he hopes his efforts will improve communication between business owners and the police. Many of their concerns can be handled with existing city ordinances, he said.

“But I see this as really not just a temporary thing,” he said. “I think as Main Street gets ready to be redesigned we’ve been . . . struggling with a lot of issues downtown. For instance, the graffiti behind the buildings that have been plaguing the Main Street area for some time now.”

A little closing

After 15 years in the candy-making business, Audrey Little is moving on.

Her shop, A. Little Confection, has been on North Main Street since 2009. But Little recently decided to close, unable to sell enough candy to stay in business.

“It’s been coming for quite some time,” Little said.

She said she’ll miss her regular customers, but she also has a message for those who don’t frequent the local downtown shops: “Wake up, Concord, there’s a whole downtown waiting to be supported.”

Little lives in Tilton and ran A. Little Confection on Laconia’s Main Street before relocating to Concord in 2009. She hasn’t chosen a closing date yet and plans to stay open until she sells everything.

One morning last week, she was still chopping her signature caramel apples. She sold the last of her “avalanche bark,” another popular item, to a frequent customer – but not before taking time to handwrite the recipe and explain it step-by-step.

“I would be happy to do that for you,” Little told the customer. “I know you love it.”

Wonder Made’s new home

Wonder Made will close its Warren Street storefront this week, but it won’t be gone for long.

In May, the Wonder Made artists’ collective will take over the “local made” section of New To You on Pleasant Street.

Laura Loci, one of the founders of Wonder Made, said she and New To You owner Nicole Vera worked out the details Friday. Items from Wonder Made’s artists will be available at Vera’s consignment shop.

“It’s optimal, it’s kind of perfect,” Loci said.

Wonder Made is closing its Warren Street shop Saturday. Loci said it was difficult for the collective of local artists to maintain a storefront without charging membership fees or raising prices. She’ll officially move Wonder Made into the New to You store May 1.

Hassan and hard hats

Developer Steve Duprey’s new building on South Main Street currently features construction equipment, dust and panoramic views of Concord.

Duprey offered a hard-hat tour of the site last week, as part of an event celebrating national community development week. The state’s Community Development Finance Authority hosted the event, which included remarks from Gov. Maggie Hassan and Concord Mayor Jim Bouley.

After the short ceremony, event attendees had a chance to walk around the new building. The fourth floor features the best views in Concord, Duprey said. A room that will become law firm Orr & Reno’s main conference room has large windows in place with panoramic views of downtown and the State House.

On the first floor, Gibson’s Bookstore owner Michael Herrmann wandered around the busy construction site. It was his first time inside the space, where he’ll relocate his store in a few months.

“It’s just been blueprints up until now,” Herrmann said.

The lower level was covered in yellow plastic, though Duprey said its concrete floor would soon be poured.

The outside of the building is still an active construction site, as well. A gust of wind sent a block of styrofoam plummeting from scaffolding into the small crowd gathered for the ceremony last Wednesday in front of Duprey’s Smile Building next door. No visitors were harmed, and everyone wore a hard hat inside the new construction site.

The new building, on the former site of the New Hampshire Bindery, is scheduled to open this summer.

A musical lineup

The Granite State Music Festival has started to announce its 2013 festival roster.

The Ryan Montbleau Band is the festival’s headliner act. The Massachusetts-based band tours nationwide.

Other performers will include the Adam Ezra Group, Richard James and the Name Changers, Truffle, and Katie Rose. Every band will perform original music.

“The festival is a celebration of the creativity and diversity of the state’s music scene,” festival director Scott Solsky said in a press release. “The best way to showcase those elements, within the limits of a two-day festival, is to focus solely on original music.”

The second annual music festival will be held June 22-23 at Kiwanis Riverfront Park. Early bird tickets are for sale at granitestate

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

Legacy Comments2

Are you sure the loitering problem wasn't a reprint from the early seventies? I can't swear to it but I think it was copied verbatim from a 42 year old article. Imagine that "undesirables" are still a problem, Shouldn't have closed the Merit Station, that pulled a lot of us away from downtown ;)

IT'S ABOUT TIME they addressed the real problem why people won't shop downtown. Just get rid of the nuts and undesirables, and the people will come back. You can rebuild the whole downtown, but if this problem still exists, people will not go shopping there. Plain and simple.

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