Tim Sink: Investment in Concord’s downtown is paying off

For the Monitor
Published: 9/16/2018 12:35:11 AM

Former Concord mayoral candidate Jim Baer wrote a characteristically negative op-ed that appeared in the Sept. 9 Sunday Monitor, where he said “I was a fervent opponent of spending $14 million on our Main Street rehabilitation. I offer no apology for that position.”

I think it is important to share some facts about the short- and long-term impacts of the Downtown Complete Streets Project. Let’s take a look at some of the results.

First, the net cost of the entire project was $13.2 million. Of that total, approximately $5.7 million (43 percent) were non-city funds consisting of grants, donations and tax credits. I know this because the chamber played a key role in securing some of that non-city funding. So, what was the return on investment for the city’s $7.5 million investment?

One of the primary objectives of the downtown redevelopment project was to encourage increased market-rate housing in the district, which stimulates economic activity and creates a more vibrant city culture. So far, there has been an increase of more than 60 units of downtown market-rate housing either completed or under construction. An additional 125 units is planned for the former Employment Security building on South Main Street. The mixed-use development will include another new restaurant to add to the several new dining establishments that have opened since the project’s completion.

Other exciting downtown developments include a 20,000-square-foot, 38-room boutique hotel in Capital Commons, the new Bank of New Hampshire Theater in the old and (formerly decrepit) Concord Theater, and the 102,000-square-foot, $12.5 million Granite Center redevelopment at Eagle Square and Dixon Avenue. A new downtown hot spot is in the planning stages for historic Phenix Hall and gaining momentum as we speak.

Vacancy rates downtown decreased by more than 60 percent between 2013 and 2018. And an additional 18 downtown buildings are now handicapped accessible as a direct result of the project.

What has been the return on investment relative to property tax generation? Time will tell, but the increase in assessed value and new developments continually coming on line spells good news for Concord taxpayers over the long run. We are seeing the return on investment.

A destination downtown with more restaurants, entertainment venues, market-rate housing, public art and fun events year-round not only provides a wonderful amenity for those of us who live here, but will also help our economy in so many ways, not the least of which will be to attract and retain a talented workforce. This is truly a great time for Concord.

Sorry, Mr. Baer. Try as you might, there is just no going back to “city in a coma.”

(Tim Sink is president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce.)

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