Concord planning board okays two major projects

  • The building formely known as the Vegas Block but now known as "Remi's Block" on the corner of Loudon Road and Main Street in downtown Concord.

Monitor staff
Thursday, April 21, 2016

Two major housing developments – one sweeping renovation with apartments for rent, one new construction with homes for sale – have a stamp of approval from the Concord planning board.

The first is Remi’s Block, a mixed-use remodel for a downtown blight. On Wednesday night, the board okayed the architectural plans for the outside of the North Main Street building. 

The second is a 26-unit complex of townhouses near Bog Road in Penacook. The board also approved a site plan for that project, which is adjacent to the Vineyards Condominiums and the Vintage Estates subdivision. 

The projects are a sampling from the post-recession housing market in Concord – diverse and, slowly, resurgent. In 2015, the city reported 190 new dwelling units were started in Concord. The majority of those units came from a single project – 140-unit senior housing complex. But that figure is the highest since 2004. 

“It shows that there’s some positive signs on the horizon,” Carlos Baia, the deputy city manager of development, said. “In Concord, we’ve seen our residential construction numbers increase, but very slowly.”

Remi Hinxhia, the namesake and owner for Remi’s Block, purchased the downtrodden tower at 148-158 N. Main St. in 2014. Since then, Hinxhia has been planning to convert that building to 20 market-rate apartments and three first-floor storefronts. 

In his plans, 12 of the 20 units would include a balcony large enough for a small coffee table and two people.

“In the morning, one weekend, have a nice cup of coffee,” Hinxhia said. “At night, have a nice glass of wine.”

He noted those balconies were a critical boost to the appraisal for a $2.8 million construction project. After more than a year of starts and stops, Hinxhia only recently secured a financing partnership with the Capital Regional Development Council, the city of Concord, Sugar River Bank and Merrimack County Savings Bank.

“It’s been in tough shape for many years,” Hinxhia’s architect, Sheldon Pennoyer, said. “The idea is to bring it back to life and make it part of the fabric of downtown Concord.”

The balconies will be staggered along the building front. While one board member expressed concern they do not match the historic character of the building and the street, several others praised the idea.

“When I travel this country and other places — I was just in New Orleans – there are balconies everywhere,” board member Teresa Rosenberger said. “It seems to be it brings vibrancy, it brings life, which we desperately need.”

The board also approved a site plan for a to-be-named townhouse development by Bedford developer R.J. Moreau. The 26 units will be divided into duplexes and fourplexes near Bog Road; nearby, the same builder has put up single family homes and condominiums. 

The two projects are indicative of the range of housing development in Concord right now, Baia said. In addition to the two items from Wednesday’s planning board agenda, he cited an ongoing project for high-end condos at the former Sacred Heart Church.

“I can’t say we’ve seen one consistent trend right now,” Baia said. “The spectrum of housing is very varied.”

Diversity, he added, can be positive.

“If there’s a downturn . . . right now, we have the variety and the depth to weather that storm,” Baia said. “The county and the state and the country as a whole still has a long road ahead of itself to get back to those strong days, when residential construction was going very, very well.”

Wednesday’s meeting was also the last for long-time chairman Gerry Drypolcher. He had served on the board since 1989, and recently submitted his letter of resignation effective at the end of April.

Richard Woodfin was voted to succeed Drypolcher as chairman. The board’s next meeting is May 18 at 7 p.m.

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