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Downtown: Main Street changes in the pipeline

  • A rendering of what Phenix Hall would look like once renovated. The building would get a new, multi-story glass front with lobbies. Ciborowski Associates

  • Renderings show different angles of what a renovated Phenix Hall would look like. —Ciborowski Associates

  • Developer Mark Ciborowski gives a tour of Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER

  • A model of the new Phenix Hall with two renderings in the backround. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Developer Mark Ciborowski in the center of Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, June 28, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER

  • A Brunswick bar will be incorporated into the Phenix Hall renovation. Caitlin Andrews—Ciborowski Associates

Monitor staff
Published: 6/30/2019 10:23:46 PM

It seems like the jackhammers never stop in the Capital City now that it’s summertime.

The warmer months are prime time for construction projects and road work. Most of you are probably experiencing the latter – this reporter woke up nearly every day last week to the dulcet sounds of water main replacement outside her window.

In downtown, there are plenty of different developments in the pipeline. We’ll take you through some of the more significant ones that will change the face of Main Street in a few key places.

Phenix rising

It’s easy to imagine the former glory of Phenix Hall.

You might have seen the old theater hall if you attended a New Year’s bash, a wedding or a corporate function there in recent years. With its original exposed beams, stately balcony and a stage where Teddy Roosevelt once spoke still intact, it seems like an HVAC upgrade and a fresh coat of paint would be enough to revitalize the space.

But Mark Ciborowski has grander plans.

We teased you almost a year ago about Ciborowski’s vision to redo the hall. Now we’ve got a better picture of what that will look like.

Renderings show a multi-level glass front where guests can observe the streets below while waiting for a performance – or, in keeping with the building’s history as a stomping ground for politicians, a debate.

The upper lobby will be kept open on the south side, so that iconic Gold Metal Flour/Coca Cola artwork will still be visible.

The structure will fill the alleyway between Phenix Hall and the CVS/Pharmacy building, but Ciborowski said if the Concord City Council agrees to deed the alleyway to him, he’ll give them an easement allowing pedestrians to cross to Low Avenue.

The building can only hold 99 people right now due to code rules; but when he’s done, Ciborowski said Phenix Hall will hold about 499 people.

The hall was a gathering place from about 1855, when the structure was built, to 1927. The original venue – where Abraham Lincoln is said to have spoken – sustained a “tremendous” fire in 1893.

Ciborowski wants to retain that old-time feel. He’ll be keeping the bones of the place, including those exposed beams and that stage. The original cherry wood theater seats in the balcony will be getting a fresh veneer, and the seat brackets will get a fresh coat of paint.

And he plans to add something new using something old. Specifically, a 44-foot Brunswick bar, oak wood with six columns, that he found at Oley Valley Architectural Antiques in Pennsylvania. It’ll take a tractor trailer to bring the bar to Concord and a crane to put it in Phenix Hall, but Ciborowski thinks it’ll be “the statement piece” of the whole place.

There is still a ways to go before the project really gets going. In addition to getting the deed for the alleyway, Ciborowski said he plans to ask the council for tax relief under RSA 79-E and for help in redoing some of the utilities under the building.

There’s the question of funding, too. Ciborowski said it’s looking like the project will cost anywhere from $6 million to $8 million, and won’t be supported by “market-rate financing.”

Instead he’ll be pursuing low-interest, fully-secured loans, secured by real estate mortgages with the goal of paying them all back in five years. If he doesn’t meet that goal, Ciborowski said he’ll refinance – or sell a “building or two” out of his portfolio of buildings.

If all goes smoothly, interior work on the theater will begin this winter. Ciborowski said that won’t be the end of it, however. In five years, he’s thinking of tearing down the CVS building to replace it with a five-story structure.

Like most downtown buildings, he says the new structure will have retail on the bottom and either residential or office space (or a mix of both). The top will be what really sets it apart – a rooftop deck with trees and other plants, plus a 360-degree view of downtown.

To keep an eye on the project, visit thephenixblock.com.

Main Street teardown

Just down the street, another structure may not get a second chance.

The Demolition Review Committee will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Monday to discuss whether they feel the green Victorian building at 20 – 20.5 S. Main St. has historic value and if there’s an alternative to tearing it down. The house was built in the early 1900s, according to city records.

The building was once the home of the OutFITters Thrift Store run by Families in Transition. But Concord real estate developer Steve Duprey bought it last year as plans for the newly open Bank of New Hampshire Stage were starting to get underway.

Duprey has previously said if someone bought the building off him, he’d move it down Main Street for free. He wants to replace it with a vintage 1940s Paterson Vehicle Company Silk City diner he bought from the Michael Dingman estate out in Kensington.

The clock is ticking for the building: there is a 45-day waiting period between when a demolition permit is filed and when a developer is allowed to tear a building down.

Facade facelifts

Meanwhile, two developers have recently gotten the green light to give their buildings makeovers.

RemiHinxhia, owner of the Remi’s Block and the adjacent building, plans to renovate the storefronts of 134 -146 N. Main St. According to city documents, Hinxhia plans to remove the exterior brick facade added in the 1960s to expose the original facade of the building, which has arches and cast-iron columns.

He’ll start with 144 and 146 N. Main St. this summer and eventually will move to 142 N. Main St. It’s the former site of Bead It! that has sat empty since the crafting store closed last year.

Eventually, the whole thing will have a bronze color finish and the iron columns will be painted black.

A few doors down, the face of 78 – 82 N. Main St. will also be getting a redesign.

Bangor Savings Bank has revamped their vision for the former home of the Crazy Goat Tavern after the New Hampshire Historic Preservation raised concerns about their original design’s treatment of the building’s third story windows.

Now, only the street-level storefront will get a facelift through scraping and reglazing, as well as replacing the double-hung windows.

Bangor Savings Bank plans to put a branch at the site, but only on the upper floors. Plans indicate they’ll be looking for a restaurant tenant to fill the ground floor space.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)



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