315 parking meters to be added to downtown Concord

  • This map shows the locations of expanded meter parking in downtown Concord. The yellow sections indicate where the roughly 315 new meters will be installed and operational by Dec. 2, 2019. Courtesy of Matt Walsh / City of Concord—

  • One of the city's new smart meters on Green Street is shown in October 2018. Caitlin Andrews

  • One of the new parking kiosks on Pleasant Street extension in downtown Concord. The city is installing 315 new meters along several streets off Main Street. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 11/12/2019 2:38:04 PM

At the start of December, downtown Concord will have about 315 new parking meters at spaces that were previously free to park, and some downtown workers and business owners are not excited about the change.

The switch to metered parking was approved two years ago as part of the city’s comprehensive parking overhaul. The first wave of changes – increases in on-street parking rates from 75 cents an hour to a dollar, an expansion of the hours of metered parking from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and an increase in parking ticket fees from $10 to $15 – have already been implemented. The city also installed about 45 new meters on South Main and Concord streets, which are for three-hour parking.

Now, the second wave of changes is about to take effect. Work is currently underway to install another 315 meters – for 10-hour parking – to sections of roads that are slightly beyond the downtown core. Portions of State, Storrs, Pleasant, South, Centre, Wall and South Spring streets are among the destinations for new meters.

Many locations have already had meter posts installed, and the meter heads will start being installed this week. If all goes according to plan, all 315 new meters will be up and running by Dec. 2, according to and Matt Walsh, director of development, downtown services and special projects.

“I do park all over this street, so I’m sure it will affect me,” said Jennifer Harrison, who was washing her clothes at State Street Laundromat at 44 S. State St., last Wednesday. South State Street, from Wall Street to Thorndike Street, is one of the sections slated for new meters. Most of the parking spaces on that stretch are currently one- or two-hour free parking, but will soon become 10-hour metered parking.

Harrison typically parks on the adjacent Concord Street when she does her laundry, so she said the addition of meters on South State won’t bother her too much, however she’d still rather not see meters added, she said.

“I already park on Monroe Street,” said Emily Ernst, who works at Bridge & Byron Printing at 45 S. State St., right across the street from the laundromat. “Now I’m going to have to go further into these neighborhoods.”

Ernst is not alone in parking on a residential street while working somewhere downtown all day. The barbers at Lucky’s Barbershop & Shave Parlor, at 50 S. State St., do the same thing.

“I park on Monroe,” said Josh Carley, a barber at Lucky’s. Because he never parks on South State Street when he goes to work, he doesn’t worry too much about the meters coming. “Most of us park on the free side streets.”

However, not everyone at Lucky’s is unfazed by the idea.

“It’s definitely going to affect us negatively,” said barber Chris McCoy. “A lot of times we can have two-hour waits,” he said, explaining how he thinks customers won’t want to have to pay to sit and wait to get a haircut. “We’re not going to have people running in and out.”

On the other side of downtown, Storrs Street is set to get quite a few new meters, too. The section of Storrs Street between Theatre and South Main streets that currently offers 10-hour free parking will become 10-hour metered parking, and the small stretch of the street that runs under Loudon Road will go from three-hour free parking to 10-hour metered parking.

All of these changes were subject to multiple public hearings and several revisions before they were actually approved. The city began working on a strategic parking plan in 2013 to try to find ways to get the parking fund back in the black – it had operated at a loss since 2007.

Finances were certainly part of the plan, and so was maximizing access and boosting business in the redesigned downtown.

In theory, metered parking should be good for retail businesses, creating more turnover of parking spaces and cutting down on people taking up one spot all day. But some business owners other angles to it.

The change on Storrs Street from three-hour free parking to 10-hour metered parking will affect Concord Antiques.

“The difference between two-hour, four-hour and 10-hour is big,” said Tom Balon, owner of Concord Antiques, which has locations at 97 and 137 Storrs St. “On two-hour ones you can’t go out and re-feed it, you’ve got to move the car. If they put 10-hour in, my take is the city is purely interested in revenue. An unfortunate choice.”

Fred Keach, owner of D. McLeod Florist at 49 S. State St. and also an at-large city councilor, agreed with Balon.

“The bigger concern I have is right now there’s an awful lot of folks who work in and around the Cap Center and downtown and they come up to South State for long-term parking,” Keach said. “It doesn’t really solve the parking problem, what it does is push that demand into the neighborhoods – Thorndike, Monroe.”

Both Balon and Keach provide free parking to their employees, so the addition of meters won’t impact any of their workers, but they both worry about people who work at businesses that do not offer parking, who must find somewhere around the city to park while they’re at work all day.

The city does have three parking garages, which all offer lower rates than on-street metered parking. The garages are meant for long-term parkers, such as downtown employees, and the lower prices are meant to make them more attractive than taking up a spot on the street all day, Walsh said. The School Street garage is undergoing significant renovations right now, a project with a $5.5 million price tag. Part of the reason for the new meters is to help pay for that garage work – rates at the garage will not increase, because the city still wants the garages to be attractively priced for long-term parkers.

To Keach, that doesn’t seem to be the best plan.

“They’ve looked to the general parking fund to support” the garage renovations, he said. “Some would argue that the garages need to be self-sustaining. It’s not entirely fair for parking meter revenue to be diverted to the garage projects.”

For more information about the parking changes, including a map showing where the new meters will go, go to concordnh.gov/844/Downtown-Parking.

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