Sununu’s budget proposal includes demolition of Stickney Avenue DOT garages

  • The Department of Transportation building on Stickney Avenue in Concord has been funded for demolition. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The stateDepartment of Transportation buildings seen from Storrs Street have long been an eyesore in downtown Concord. GEOFF FORESTER Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 2/23/2019 10:31:18 PM

The warehouses on Stickney Avenue that have long been an eyesore and a barrier to Concord’s development plans may not be around much longer.

Gov. Chris Sununu plans to include the Department of Transportation’s $620,000 request to tear down the buildings in his budget, according to spokesman Benjamin Vihstadt. The request will be included in a future bill.

It’s welcome news for the city, which has lobbied for the state to tear down the buildings ahead of the Interstate 93 widening project.

Both Stickney Avenue and Storrs Street serve as visual gateways to the city from I-93, particularly from Exit 14, said city manager Tom Aspell.

“It could be 10 years away,” Aspell said of the widening project. “The question has been, do we want those buildings to be sitting out there looking like that, representing the state and the city, or do we want to take steps to do something right now?”

The city’s most recent push included a letter to the DOT urging them to clear the riverside brush and demolish the buildings while the I-93 project was in limbo, according to a Nov. 13, 2018, letter.

Days later, Aspell said the governor approached Mayor Jim Bouley and requested a meeting. The three men met on Nov. 27 to discuss the issue further.

“From what I could tell, it was something the governor noticed as well, especially when coming off Exit 14,” Aspell said of the meeting.

The city’s insistence seems to have paid off.

“Public pressure to raze dilapidated State owned buildings on real estate acquired through projects continues to increase,” notes a DOT efficiency budget presentation from November. “Without funding to remove some of these structures, they continue as a liability to the State. It has also been requested that the Department pursue the demolition and disposal of the Stickney Avenue facility.”

“Given its prime gateway location, this parcel may be ripe for redevelopment,” the department’s budget request notes.

It’s unclear when the structures, which are decades old, will come down. But when they do, the city has tentative designs on buying the land, so they can decide what to do with it.

Aspell said it’s far too early to say what that will look like, although he mentioned the site may be prime for a multimodal transportation stop or commercial development.

But years of DOT vehicles coming in and out of the warehouses will probably necessitate some site cleanup. It’s better to develop a master plan first, Aspell said, and then start thinking about price points.

“The kind of clean up we do is going to be driven by the usage,” he said.

It wouldn’t be the first time Concord has rehabbed land in that area. Aspell said the land used by the Holiday Inn and the Friendly Kitchen were both purchased and fixed up by the city in years past.

Putting aside how the I-93 project factors into the city’s future (which the city doesn’t seem to be too fond of; Aspell’s November letter challenges the state to “think more creatively” on the project to better align with the city’s goals), development on Stickney Avenue could mean big things for how you get around Concord.

The city’s master plan for its Opportunity Performance Corridor envisioned realigning Storrs Street and Stickney Avenue, creating two new parallel development spines.

Storrs Street would extend under the Loudon Road bridge and travel northward until connecting to Commercial Street and the new connector road to Fort Eddy Road.

Stickney Avenue would be extended as well, connecting Commercial Street in the north to Loudon Road in the south, according to the master plan. That extension would also create a second road on the west side of I-93, providing an alternative to North Main Street for traffic exiting I-93 southbound and I-393 westbound and traveling southbound to Loudon Road.

If the project is approved, those warehouses will be the last of several state-owned structures in that area, some of which were nearly 100 years old.

Land for the state highway garage on Stickney Avenue was acquired in 1925 from Caroline Foster, widow of Pennsylvania coal broker, Mount Washington Hotel builder and Concord Rail director, Concord man Joseph Stickney.

The original building, consisting of a garage and a testing lab, were constructed in 1926 for about $83,000, according to DOT historical documents. More buildings were added in the 1940s, allowing DOT to centralize all related supplies and equipment. Various other storage units have cropped up, too, and still remain.

A few years ago, the state demolished three buildings on the site to add 238 parking spaces to the transportation center.

The remaining brick buildings date to 1948, according to DOT documents.

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

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