We asked what you would do with Concord’s mall – here’s what you said

  • The Steeplegate Mall is Concord is basically empty on Wednesday morning, April 11, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER

  • The main entrance of the Steeplegate Mall in Concord on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 5/19/2018 10:27:18 PM

One day, maybe you’ll have a piece of cheesecake there.

Or perhaps you’ll record a hole-in-one, bowl, bounce on a trampoline, roller skate, rent a condo, watch a play, listen to music, fill a prescription, retire there, move from the streets into your own place, exercise, shoot a laser gun, or shop until you drop at businesses you dearly want.

Or maybe all of the above.

Over a recent four-day stretch, while our local mall stood quietly like a dusty blueprint, your emails came in with suggestions on what to build on Concord’s Heights – the busy mix of commercial property on the city’s east side – to attract customers and spur economic growth.

Your passion was evident following my recent column that documented ideas from people whom I met at the Steeplegate Mall.

Three stores were mentioned multiple times: Trader Joe’s, Dave and Buster’s and the Christmas Tree Shop. Some thought way outside the box. How about hosting the Miss New Hampshire pageant somewhere on the Steeplegate grounds?

A few responses wondered why I chose to highlight the decline of customers at the mall. But, seriously, is there any other way to look at the place?

Even with the Hatbox Theater, which I was told draws thousands to the mall each year, and even with the baked goods at Terrasini Pastries, which I carelessly omitted from my previous column as a place to eat in the food court, Steeplegate has long attracted dialogue centered around the emptiness of its parking lot and the echo in its long straightaways, not the buzz it had through the 1990s.

Even during the holiday season, there’s way too much room to maneuver in stores, and a bit more tension – crazed shoppers honking their horns as they search for parking – would be a welcome change.

Of course, there is no magic formula, no proven way to create something and then watch it flourish. But you had ideas, lots of them.

Emails centered around several distinct categories – entertainment, eating, shopping and the human spirit, or those who sought to make life better for certain segments of society.

Start with entertainment. People want to have fun. They want a place for children, they want a place for adults, and they want it to be affordable.

And they want it here, not in Manchester.

“I think the mall should do something around families and fun,” wrote Jenn Welcome of Concord. “A rollerskating park with music, an arcade, bowling center, an indoor amusement center more or less.”

Cara Scala of Concord had lots of ideas, including a 21-and-older club and private rooms for birthday parties and corporate events.

“Laser tag,” Scala added, “go-karts, trampolines, karaoke, roller skating. There could be an indoor and outdoor playground, and the parking lot is big enough that they could even convert some of it into a mini-golf course.”

Brittany Pelkey offered “Multi-genre nightclubs. Some for 17 and under, some for 18 and older and others 21 and older. Bon Ton can be a country club, Sears can be live music.”

Krishtianna Singh of Laconia gave a young person’s perspective. “I’m 18 years old and another vape shop won’t help. I think maybe placing a gym in there would get a lot of customers for you.”

“A Planet Fitness, a big tanning salon like Sun Tan City,” said Tiffany Doucet of Salisbury.

Jennifer Bartlett of Chichester had unique thoughts, writing a “place for children to run, play, learn, exercise. Not similar to the Bouncy House there already. Like baby/toddler yoga/exercise. Maybe a movie can be featured each day. Arts and crafts.”

Sean Christie of Concord mentioned Ball Crawl for kids, pool tables for adults. And how about a drive-in theater or a nightclub? That’s what Rebecca Carleton of Concord would like to see.

Of course, a giant menu of food suggestions surfaced. The Olive Garden is nice, but Karen Steele of Loudon would like another option for Italian food.

Scala said tacos, specialty pizzas, burgers, poutine, ice cream, cupcakes and a beer joint. Margaret Pill of Concord said follow the lead of the mall in Manchester and open a tavern/restaurant, like Bertucci’s.

For retail, how many times have you heard people complain about the long drive to Trader Joe’s in Nashua and Portsmouth?

And the Christmas Tree Shop got lots of votes as well, with Gail O’Neil of Bow writing, “They are always busy and bring people in,” and Rhoda Alves Packard of Warner saying the store boosted the mall in Waterford, Conn.

And what about combining a residence with shopping? Sort of a self-contained environment.

Pamela Price of Gilford said Burlington, Mass., and Cary, N.C., do that. “Having residents on site guarantees a minimum number of customers,” Price said. “The restaurants and entertainment venues bring in the rest of the customers.”

A place the homeless can call home got a lot of attention as well. Fund it, build it and open its doors.

“There are not enough places or shelters for the homeless,” said Christina Barry of Northwood.

Lusa Silva of Derry expanded this theory, writing, “Year round homeless shelter, job training, social services combo. Surely there must be state or federal grants that could make something like this happen.”

She continued: “The mall is on the city bus line, which would facilitate travel, and anyone staying at the shelter would get some type of voucher for bus travel to work or other approved destinations, such as Riverbend.”

Of course, making the mall a better mall came up, too, and that included high-end, trendy clothing stores and affordable clothing stores.

The ideas were endless, once people had time to think. An educational center for children, a mental health facility, a walk-in emergency clinic, a bookstore, a horse tack shop, a bingo hall, a comic book store, a grocery store, a veterinarian, a flea market, a public library, emergency housing, a wine-and-paint business, an antiques store, a hotel, an educational program for the upcoming pot industry.

Something. Anything. No one wants to drive to Manchester or Nashua or Merrimack. Make those people drive to us.

“The mall cannot compete in retail,” Paul Ambrose of New London wrote. “More creative and sustainable uses are essential before it becomes a beautiful empty facility in foreclosure.”


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



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