Concord mayor wants more public input on Main Street project
In the 10 months since Concord received a $4.71 million federal grant to redesign Main Street, the city has had more than 20 public meetings about the project.
Next, the city council must finalize the designs.
But councilors won’t make any decisions before gathering more public input, Mayor Jim Bouley said.
“I want to hear from the public,” Bouley said. “I want to hear what they have to say.”
City Engineer Ed Roberge will present his recommendations to the city council at its May 13 meeting. Bouley plans to ask the council that night to schedule a public hearing and a work session for the council, followed by another public hearing and vote on the plans.
That process, similar to the way the council receives public input on its annual budgets, would include more feedback than is typical for city council votes. Residents will be able to weigh in on decisions or changes made during the council’s work session.
If councilors agree with Bouley’s approach, they’ll schedule the public hearings. That must happen before June 14, the deadline to submit plans for approval from the federal government.
Roberge said he’ll present options and cost estimates to the council and provide images so councilors can “see and feel” the new Main Street.
Councilors will make a number of decisions, including:
∎ Should Phenix Avenue turn into a pocket park? Should the park include a ramp to Low Avenue?
∎ Will the city build fountains in front of the State House? Current designs call for fountains built into the sidewalk; children could play in the water when it is turned on.
∎ Will the designs include a heating system for the sidewalks or the street? That plan could hinge on Concord Steam’s decision on building a new plant in the South End.
∎ How many trees and flower beds will Main Street have?
∎ What materials will be used for sidewalks and crosswalks? Roberge said he’ll present options and cost estimates.
Current designs call for a two-lane Main Street with a crossable center median, parallel parking along one side of the street and angled parking on the other. Public meetings on the project have, at times, focused on details such as the height of the trees and the size of banners hanging from streetlights.
The city council will likely weigh in on both large and small design elements, said Councilor Dan St. Hilaire.
“I think everything is fair game,” he said. “And I know we’ll listen to that (input), and I would anticipate we would make changes.”
Bouley said public input, cost and design elements will all be important in the council’s deliberations.
City Councilor Jennifer Kretovic said feedback about the design itself is important, but she’d like to focus on a cost-benefit analysis of the project.
“A lot of the concentration has been on design and parking and how many travel lanes so that’s what people tend to focus on,” she said. “But I think as a council we do look beyond that, because there is that monetary piece, because there is that investment for the community.”
Kretovic is the former executive director of Concord 2020, which sponsored the Re-Thinking Main Street project that became the basis for the city’s successful grant application. (Concord 2020 has since shut down.)
The project will next go before the city council May 13. While Roberge said he’ll give a presentation about his recommendations, Bouley said no decisions will be made if councilors agree to schedule another public hearing.
“I personally would like to take the community’s input, and I would like to have a work session with my fellow councilors to consider what we’ve heard,” Bouley said.
Facade at the Endicott
The Endicott Hotel’s first-floor facade will get a facelift this spring.
CATCH Neighborhood Housing is renovating the building into market-rate apartments and redoing the commercial space on the lower levels. Last month, the organization received an extra loan from the city to upgrade the storefront facade along South Main Street, which now has a glossy black finish.
“So we would like to do a better job on the streetscape aspect of the building, and we didn’t have the money in the budget to do that,” said Rosemary Heard, CATCH’s executive director.
The $150,000 loan was approved last month by the city’s Community Development Advisory Committee. Heard said CATCH organization also needed extra money to correct structural problems found during construction.
CATCH is not yet able to discuss its plans for the commercial space in the building, Heard said last week. Meanwhile, nearly 100 people have joined a waiting list for the building’s 24 apartments.
Heard said the organization is planning a June dedication ceremony for the building.
A secret next to ‘SMILE!’
What will Steve Duprey name his newest building on South Main Street? It’s a secret, the Concord developer said last week.
The new building, on the former site of the New Hampshire Bindery, will open in July. Duprey said he’s keeping it “under wraps” until then.
Will the building have a message similar to “SMILE!” on the facade of the building next door? (That building, which opened in 2011, is now known as the Smile Building.)
“I can assure you it won’t say ‘frown,’ ” Duprey said.
Meanwhile, Duprey has secured tenants for all but 6,000 square feet of the 70,000 square-foot building.
BittWare, a technology company now located above Bread & Chocolate on South Main Street, will move into the lower level of Duprey’s new building.
Duprey said The Royal Bank of Canada will lease part of the building’s second floor. The bank currently has offices on Depot Street in Concord.
Last year, Duprey announced that law firm Orr & Reno will occupy the building’s top floor. Gibson’s Bookstore will relocate to the first level, and True Brew Barista will open a bookstore cafe inside the new bookstore.