Concord City Council adds parking to Main Street plans
Concord’s Main Street design gained a few parking spaces last night.
The city council voted for angled parking spaces on North Main Street, from Capital Plaza to Warren Street. The design team for the Main Street redesign project had proposed parallel parking in that area; the council’s vote would result in a gain of five parking spaces.
“I’ve heard very loudly from the merchants and just folks everywhere walking down the street that parking is very important to them,” Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton said.
The sidewalk will be narrower than it is today in that area, and there will be fewer trees and benches, said Gene McCarthy, an engineering consultant for the project. But there won’t be a two-step curb, which would have been required to add a total of 10 spaces between Warren and Capitol streets.
The switch to angled parking between Warren and Capitol streets failed on a vote last night; only Mayor Jim Bouley and Councilors Steve Shurtleff, Grady Sexton and Candace Bouchard voted in favor of that design change. Councilors Dick Patten, Mark Coen and Rob Werner were absent.
All votes taken at work sessions this week are tentative; the council will hold another public hearing and final vote next Thursday. Designs are due in mid-June to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which awarded the city a $4.71 million federal grant to redesign Main Street.
At its first work session about the designs Tuesday night, councilors asked engineers to return with a plan to increase parking spaces on North Main Street, where they proposed parallel parking on the west side of the street and angled parking on the east.
Councilor Jan McClure said last night that she didn’t support the change from parallel to angled parking spaces because it altered the overall designs.
“I hear all the concerns about parking and it is an issue,” she said. “But I don’t think that it’s enough of an issue for me to be swayed to sacrifice the excellence of what we’re trying to create here, for not next year or the next year, but 10 years down the road.”
Bouchard said parking spaces are important for people who shop downtown; other councilors called the angled parking adjustment to gain five spaces a compromise.
But narrowing the sidewalk in any section doesn’t fit the project’s overall goal to transform Main Street, said Councilor Dan St. Hilaire.
“The merchants have a point about having plenty of spaces for their customers,” St. Hilaire said. “But if that now means that we are considering a plan that gives us a narrower sidewalk than we have today on that side of the street . . . I’m not sure if that qualifies as a transformative project.”
Fountains, steam, clocktower
There won’t be fountains in the State House Plaza; the council rejected that proposal last night.
The design team suggested fountains that would have been flush with the ground. They would have been turned on and off and were meant for children to splash in. Several councilors said the proposed location wasn’t appropriate, because the space is used for events, parades and political protests.
“My concern is that it only takes one protest that that fountain goes off, and we look like idiots,” said Councilor Jennifer Kretovic.
The council also agreed to move forward with a snowmelt system powered by Concord Steam, even though it is still waiting to hear whether Concord Steam can build a new plant in the South End or upgrade its existing plant.
“Yes, it’s a bit of a leap of faith, but I think that this part of the project is one of the most important pieces that we’ve all talked about,” Bouley said.
City Manager Tom Aspell said the council can put the snowmelt project out to bid and make a decision against it later, based on what they learn from Concord Steam.
The council approved of moving the clocktower from Eagle Square to Phenix Hall.
The New Hampshire Historical Society owns the clock and opposed its move, though City Manager for Development Carlos Baia said the city does have the right to move the clocktower.
“If we go back to some of the original conversation we had tonight about parking and some of the opinions people gave about big and bold . . . then you have all convinced me that we need to be big and bold, so I would support moving the clocktower for $40,000,” Bouley said.
Also last night, councilors discussed trash containers. Councilor Keith Nyhan questioned whether the city should spend $4,200 per trash can. St. Hilaire added that the city shouldn’t reduce the overall number of trash cans; there are 20 along Main Street. After discussion, the council approved the purchase of 12 solar-powered compactors, but asked city officials to make sure they are well-placed.
Councilors approved of looking into a permanent visitors kiosk to replace the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce’s seasonal booth. A new structure would have an estimated cost of up to $150,000.
Other items approved last night included plans for way-finding signage, public art and banners.
The council did not have a long discussion on project financing last night. Matt Walsh, the city’s assistant for special projects, said he will update the cost and long-term maintenance estimates based on changes made this week.
The council will not hold a third work session tonight, but it will meet next Thursday for a final public hearing and vote. Construction is set to begin in September.