Update: New life for Steeplegate with addition of trampoline park, possibly new charter school

  • An image shows what Altitude Trampoline Park’s indoor bouncing courts look like. The company is expected to open a new location in Concord’s Steeplegate Mall by the end of this summer. Courtesy of Altitude Trampoline

  • A layout of the Steeplegate Mall is pictured. Altitude Trampoline Park is looking to open a Concord location in the space marked “1140,” where Circuit City used to be. The Capital City Charter School is looking to move into the left-most The Bon Ton location, which has been empty since this spring. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 5/24/2018 12:50:51 PM

Two of the Steeplegate Mall’s empty anchor stores will soon see new life in the form of a trampoline park and a charter school.

Altitude Trampoline Park will be opening its third New Hampshire location in the Concord mall, according to a company announcement. It’s expected to open later this summer.

The 35,191-square-foot lease will take over the anchor space where Circuit City used to be. Attractions will include a “Main Trampoline Court, Wipeout, Trapeze, Tumble Track, Bouldering Wall, Battle Beam, Reaction Wall, Kids Court” and other attractions.

The space will also be available for birthday parties, corporate team-building, and camp and school outings.

“We are very pleased to bring Altitude’s emphasis on active entertainment to the Concord area. The Steeplegate location is very accessible to people from all over the region and will serve us well for decades into the future,” Altitude co-owner Steve Payne of Salem said in the press release.

Altitude was founded in 2012 and has dozens of parks on three separate continents and cities around the globe, according to the company’s website.

Altitude has a location in Pelham and is planning a park in Merrimack, according to the release.

Because the park is classified as a “commercial indoor recreational facility,” a use that is allowed in the Gateway Performance District, and the location has “excessive” parking, the proposed park does not need to appear before the city’s land use boards.

But the zoning that makes putting in a trampoline park so easy may prove to be a challenge for the Capital City Charter School.

Stephanie Alicea of Boscawen is hoping to bring her service-based charter school to the former men’s and houseware wing of The Bon-Ton. She is scheduled to appear before Concord’s zoning board of adjustment on June 6 to ask for a variance to establish an elementary/secondary school where such use is not permitted.

The Capital City Charter School received its charter from the State Board of Education in February after first presenting in November. The school, which plans to start with middle school students and eventually expand to high school grades, is centered around service learning, which requires students to incorporate individually designed community service projects into their education.

The school’s target enrollment for its first year is 60 students in sixth through eighth grade. According to charter application materials submitted to the state, the school wants to start small: a $644,000 budget in year one, with just four teachers.

Alicea said she expects to have a lease for the space signed next week. While the mall may seem an odd choice for the school, Alicea said she sees potential in its open spaces.

“It’s accessible from all ways, there’s plenty of parking, and that’s really important for schools,” she said. “There may not be a ton of grassy space, but there’s a lot of outdoor space for us to move around.”

Alicea thinks the relationship could be symbiotic, noting the existing food court and play spaces could get attention from parents and students.

“We want to help our community and be vital to our community, and Steeplegate is part of that,” she said. “In five years, there’s going to be a lot of kids running around there, and that will be our community.”

Though she didn’t want to say how long the lease would be, Alicea said it’s “longer than normal.”

“We expect to be there for the life of the school,” she said.

Alicea also declined to say how much the lease would cost except to say it was a “good price.”

The news is sure to be welcomed by Concord residents, who recently said in a Monitor survey that they would like to see more active options in the mall, which has struggled in recent years.

The Bon-Ton announced the closure of its Concord stores in February and appears to have closed in April. But the Circuit City location has been empty, hosting only seasonal pop-ups since around 2009.

It was certainly welcomed by Hatbox Theatre’s Andrew Pinard. The community-based volunteer theater will be a neighbor to both the charter school and the trampoline park.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “I think we’ve shown that the mall is due for a renewal.”

And Pinard said he would be open to working with Capital City Charter’s students in the future. He hopes this will be the start of people looking at the mall not as a failing business, but as a space that offers plentiful parking, is up to code, is accessible and affordable.

It could also be a return to mall’s roots, which often featured experience-based attractions like movie theaters and arcades in their heyday, Pinard said. The Steeplegate’s hundreds of thousands of square feet would be perfect, he said, for large community-based events.

“Without the mall, that opportunity would be lost to the community,” Pinard said. “If people only realized what an amazing resource it is, they might start to look at it differently.”

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