Concord City Council endorses plan to sell former DES building for $350,000 and pay for asbestos clean up

  • An architectural rendering of the future Flatley Apartments shows the Northeast and Southeast corners of the building on S. Main Street and Fayette Street. —City of Concord

  • An architect's rendering of the building shows the Southwest and Northwest corners of the building on Fayette Street and S. State Street. —City of Concord

  • A site plan for the new Flatley Apartment building shows an aerial view of what the space will look like, with Fayette Street running along the top, S. State Street on the left, S. Main St. on the right and the Eagles Club building at the bottom. —City of Concord

  • An architect's rendering shows the elevation for the new Flatley apartment building. —City of Concord

  • An architect's rendering shows the elevation for the new Flatley apartment building. —City of Concord

  • Matthew Walsh, Concord’s Director of Redevelopment, Downtown Services & Special Projects, presented the plan for the new Flatley apartment building at a remote City Council meeting on May 10, 2021. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor Staff

  • The former Department of Employment Security building on South Main Street. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 5/11/2021 3:14:12 PM

Concord city councilors unanimously endorsed a deal with one of the state’s largest developers to turn the former Department of Employment Security building on South Main Street into new downtown apartments, giving new life to a building that has sat empty for years.

At a City Council meeting Monday, members voted 13-0 to sell the property for $350,000 to the John J. Flatley Company, to create a 64-unit building and parking area at 32-34 S. Main St. and 33 S. State St. The Flatley Company owns several properties in southern New Hampshire, as well as the Concord Center building on Ferry Street.

“It’s going to be great to get it back on the tax rolls,” Mayor Jim Bouley said Monday. “I think it’s going to be great to clean up a site in our downtown, I think it’s going to be great that we are going to be that much closer to paying off the Sears Block TIF District ... This is a very happy day for me to get so much closer.”

The City of Concord has agreed to fund asbestos removal at a cost of $385,000, which will be completed before the developer takes ownership and tears down the existing building known for the colorful panels on its exterior. The cost will be partially funded by a $172,500 grant from the state Department of Environmental Services Brownfields Program.

The city bought the building for $1.575 million in 2014, after the state decided to consolidate Employment Security offices at its Fruit Street location. The decision to buy the property was due to its highly visible location and strategic importance to Concord’s ongoing downtown economic development efforts, according to a report from Matt Walsh, the city’s director of Redevelopment, Downtown Services & Special Projects.

After the Flatley Company demolishes the existing DES building, it will construct a new one, which will have six stories, 64 one- and two-bedroom apartments, a private fitness center on the ground floor and maybe a swimming pool. There will be a parking garage with 31 spaces underneath the new building, as well as a 23-space parking lot outside.

“We anticipate that the units will be occupied by young professionals before they start having families, or older adults that have finished their child-rearing years and are now empty-nesters,” said Walsh, who presented the plan to City Council. “That’s pretty typical for the other housing you have downtown.”

The city predicts the property value will be between $8 million and $10.24 million. Concord will receive about $215,000-$275,000 per year in property taxes from the development, which has been tax exempt since the 1970s.

“We have not collected a penny of taxes on this property since the 1970s,” said Ward 2 Councilor Erle Pierce. “Even at the conservative levels, picking up a quarter of a million dollars a year to go toward the TIF and turn back to the community is a great thing to do. It’s a good project and I look forward to having everything come through.”

Since 2013, the City has received 17 redevelopment proposals for the property from eight different developers. In 2019, Councilors rejected a plan by Dol-Soul Properties that proposed five stories, 125 units, a parking garage and a restaurant at a price tag of $3.5 million in financing through the city’s Sears Block tax district. The Flatley Company submitted its proposal in November 2020.

During the public comment section at Monday’s meeting, which was held via Zoom, several Concord residents suggested some of the building’s new units be offered for less than the market-rate, to address the city’s shortage of affordable rental housing and to cater to working-class residents, such as those who work in retail in Concord’s downtown.

Most councilors disagreed with the idea, saying the city needs more market-rate housing than affordable housing in that particular area of the city, though several members said they want to incorporate more mixed-income housing in future projects.

“In Ward 6, we have the most low-income, subsidized housing in the city, and this project does fall within Ward 6,” said Ward 6 Councilor Linda Kenison. “But I totally agree, we need to find more low-income housing.”

Currently there are 394 affordable housing units and 108 market-rate housing units in downtown Concord, according to Walsh.

The city plans to complete asbestos removal over the summer, and the developer would close on the property Oct. 29. The Flatley Company plans to start demolition in the spring of 2022, with a goal of completing the new building by summer of 2023.

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