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Downtown: Boston Olympics bid could put passenger rail ‘on a faster track’



Last modified: Monday, January 19, 2015
Boston is a near-straight shot south from Concord, just 70 miles on Interstate 93.

Those 70 miles could be the distance between Concord and the epicenter of the Summer Olympics in less than 10 years. Earlier this month, the United States Olympic Committee tapped Boston as its pick for a 2024 bid, and New Hampshire’s neighbor is now on the short list to be the host city for the 2024 Games.

The International Olympic Committee won’t make its final selection until 2017. And even if Boston is chosen to be the host city, the Games themselves would be almost a decade away (two presidential primaries, for Granite State context). But in the meantime, the proponents of the Boston 2024 bid have said the Olympics could speed up billions of dollars of public infrastructure projects, including an expansion at South Station and new trains between the Back Bay and South Boston.

Could the promise of an Olympiad spur development in Concord as well – like the proposed passenger rail lines between Massachusetts and New Hampshire?

Tim Sink, president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, pointed to that 70-mile distance between the two cities – just an hourlong car ride or a $15 bus ticket away, he said. And maybe, by 2024, a train ticket.

“I think (hosting the Olympics in Boston) bolsters the case for rail and can, if you’ll pardon the pun, put that project on a faster track,” Sink said.

“You can’t make the case for rail based on the Olympics in Boston in 2024, but I think if we’re going down that road, it would put a sense of urgency” on the project.

Since 2013, the state has been studying the possibility of a passenger rail line between Boston and New Hampshire, perhaps extended as far north as Concord.

Opponents have said economic benefits would not be as great as predicted, and they have wondered where the money would come from to build and operate a rail line between Massachusetts and New Hampshire. But Thomas Mahon, chairman of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority, said the benefits of establishing a rail line in the state would go beyond 2024.

“If Boston were to secure the Olympics, there would be a lot of people moving in and out of the region,” Mahon said. “There would be some spillover into the outlying areas around Boston.”

Athletes could spread across New England for training, he said, and fans might look for transportation and lodging outside Boston itself.

“The current transportation system is pretty strained, and with the impact of an Olympiad, that would add to it,” Mahon said. “The prospect of the Olympics only makes it more important to look at the transportation systems in the region.”

The New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority is waiting for the results of a $3.7 million study on options for the rail project. Then, officials will recommend a final scheme for the project – and the hunt for government approval and money will begin.

Mahon called 2017 an “optimistic outlook” for the final details to fall into place, but he predicted more time would be needed before construction on the passenger rail line could begin in New Hampshire.

Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, a Concord resident and an advocate for passenger rail, said New Hampshire should move forward with rail – with or without a nearby Olympics.

“If we don’t seize the huge economic opportunity that is passenger rail, we’re going to be kicking ourselves,” Van Ostern said. “If we don’t seize (it by) the Olympics in Boston, we’re going to be kicking ourselves twice.”

Lilise to close furniture shop

The furniture and decor side of Lilise will go out of business at the end of April, but the clothing side will continue on at 113 Storrs St.

Owner Ellen Lessard opened her designer resale and consignment boutique four years ago, and her husband, Greg, then decided to incorporate furniture consignment into the business. But Greg Lessard also works full time as the director of development for the Concord Food Co-op, and his wife said he couldn’t spend as much time with the business as he had hoped.

“We decided to concentrate on the clothing side,” she said. “I’m going to concentrate my efforts to make this a great place and destination.”

The shop had a relationship for handcrafted furniture and upholstery with GraniteCor Correctional Industries Furniture, a job-training program for inmates through the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. The Lilise connection with that program will be no longer, its owners said. The furniture side will remain open through the end of April.

“Come in and make us an offer between now and the end of April,” Ellen said. “There’s a pretty good amount of stuff in the showroom for people to choose.”

For more information about the store, visit lilisedr.com.

Award, concert this Friday

New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts has named Tim Sink, president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, as its arts advocate of the year for 2015. The group is a statewide volunteer organization that advocates for the development, education and support of the arts.

Roger Brooks, an ex-officio member of Citizens for the Arts and the chairman of the state Council on the Arts, said Sink has a personal interest in music but is supportive of the arts in general.

“The arts have a role in our economy,” Brooks said, “and I think Tim is a great spokesperson for that sweet spot, which is the intersection of the creative community, represented by the arts, and the economic community, represented by business.”

That intersection, he added, is “one of the important engines that can really help our economy.”

Sink will receive his award at a reception in his honor Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Robert M. Larsen Gallery at 29 School St. in Concord. Immediately following the reception is an 8 p.m. concert titled “Beethoven Forever” performed by Symphony New Hampshire at the Concord City Auditorium.

Tickets for the concert and the reception will benefit the New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts and can be purchased online at nhcfa.org/Beethoven.

Meanwhile, in Penacook

A subcommittee of the Penacook Village Association is raising money to build a new gazebo at Poulin Park.

Former city councilor Dave Poulin orchestrated the building of a gazebo near the village center in the mid-1990s, and when he died in 2001, his friends and neighbors in Penacook raised money for a memorial plaque and named the little park after him. During construction on Route 3 through Penacook this summer, city officials determined the gazebo was too unstable to move and had to demolish it.

“I quickly found out a lot of people were very upset with the loss of the gazebo,” Penacook resident Bill Smith said. But the Penacook Village Association quickly responded and formed the Friends of Poulin Park, of which Smith is the chairman.

“We’ve started fundraising, and we’re really getting into it in earnest right now,” Smith said. “Without major efforts, we’ve raised about a third of the $15,000 we think we’re going to need to complete the project.”

The committee is selling brick pavers that will eventually line the floor and nearby walkway of the new gazebo. The pavers come in two sizes – a 4-inch-by-8-inch paver for a $100 donation, which includes up to three lines of engraved text, and an 8-inch-by-8-inch paver for a $250 donation, which includes up to six lines of text.

Businesses can also purchase a larger array of bricks to display their logos, for $1,000 to $2,000. Area contractors will donate the labor for construction.

Smith hopes the village can build a new gazebo in May. He said the finished product will again be a “focal point” for Penacook.

“It’s something the community has gotten used to having, and it’s a bit of a point of pride for us,” Smith said.

For more information or to buy a brick paver, email poulinpark@penacook.org or visit penacook.org/PoulinParkGazebo. The committee is also tracking its progress at facebook.com/PenacookVillageStreet.

City holiday

City offices and the Concord Public Library will be closed today in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Trash and recycling pickup will continue as scheduled.



Editor’s note: The original version of this story has been updated to correct the start time for the New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts reception and concert on Friday.



(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321, mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)