New site envisioned for Penacook Community Center still years away

Monitor staff
Published: 5/4/2017 11:45:08 PM

The Penacook Community Center, which completed the approvals process in 2015 for a proposed new location on Village Street, is likely years away from construction on that plan, the center’s attorney said.

But the project successfully refreshed some of its approvals Wednesday. The 39,500-square-foot community center envisioned on a 4-acre lot across from the former Beede Electrical Instrument Co. building received an extension for zoning variances it was granted in 2015 – before the project “ground to a halt,” attorney Richard Uchida said.

Concord’s zoning board members unanimously updated their approvals for another year; although Uchida said even that extension won’t be long enough.

“We really need three years, I think, to put all of this together,” he said, acknowledging that he’d return for another extension.

Rick Jaques, the president of the Penacook Community Center’s board of directors, told the zoning board Wednesday about three factors that have caused the delay.

He said the organization’s former executive director, Deb Cuddahy, stepped down, requiring an intensive search for her replacement; the Merrimack Valley School District began offering full-day kindergarten, which meant the community center “lost a quarter of our business”; and cost estimates for the project were at least $7 million, requiring a larger-than-expected fundraising effort.

Jaques said the community center hired its new executive director, Michelle Kolias, in December. Now, she and the board are working to reduce the initial outlay for the expansion by developing a plan that can be built over time.

“Our goal in the end was to do the original project, but our first priority is to see if we can do it in stages, so we can afford the initial cost,” he said. “That’s where we are right now.”

Uchida said the organization has purchased properties it needed at 95 and 97 Village St. and coordinated the planned driveway and utilities with the recent construction on Route 3.

“We did make some progress toward getting the community center on the road as it were, but frankly not enough,” he said, explaining his request for a one-year extension of the variances.

During the public comment session, one abutter to the project area spoke against the proposal, saying the Penacook Community Center “is really a day care business” and therefore shouldn’t be allowed in the residential zone.

“I guess I don’t know why we should put a business in residential medium property,” said Pat Peick of Penacook.

The zoning board members unanimously agreed, however, that the application met the criteria needed to justify an extension.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, or on Twitter at

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