Steeplegate Mall demolition may come before Planning Board

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 07-08-2024 10:27 AM

Modified: 07-08-2024 3:48 PM


The next steps in Steeplegate Mall’s transition from pure retail to mixed-use will come before two Concord boards this month, including whether to allow part of the building to be torn down.

A July 10 hearing has been scheduled by the city Zoning Board concerning a number of changes to town zoning that the mall’s owners, Onyx Partners, say are needed to make their proposal succeed, and a July 17 hearing is slated before the Planning Board to allow demolition of the building.

Fencing and barriers surround parts of the sprawling structure that once was a retail hub in the city but now sits mostly vacant. Signs for New Hampshire Demolition, a company based out of Auburn, hang outside.  

The Planning Board hearing concerns a requested amendment to the mall’s 1999 site plan which would allow partial demolition of the building, according to Jim Spain, chairman of the city’s Demolition Review Committee. 

Unlike other Concord buildings that have been torn down recently such as the Norris House on South Main Street, the city’s Demolition Review Committee has no say in the fate of the Steeplegate Mall because it is less than 50 years old. The mall opened in 1990. 

Onyx Partners have said that three current mall tenants – JC Penney, Altitude Trampoline Park and The Zoo health club – have long-term leases and will remain even as everything else owned by Onyx, including the adjoining Regal Theater building, is torn down.  The stand-alone TD Bank and Applebee’s restaurant alongside the mall will not be changed by the development.

The Zoning Board meeting concerns a request for a rehearing on a number of items previously considered, including building heights, road frontage and how many parking spaces must be included.

Planning boards oversee all types of development, often within a broad idea of shaping overall development while zoning boards are focused on individual matters, usually requests to build something that isn’t allowed under local rules.

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Onyx Partners, which bought the Steeplegate Mall and Regal Cinemas properties last year, has plans to build three multi-story apartment buildings holding some 600 units plus ground-floor retail, a Costco and other shops as well as the mall’s three remaining tenants. 

The City Council approved more than $24 million to pay for a sewer main update and new pump station serving the Heights to improve capacity that City Manager Tom Aspell said was critical to the redevelopment of Steeplegate. Concord water and sewer ratepayers will foot that bill, not the mall’s developers. 

The mall has been largely empty for several years and was closed in April 2022 except for businesses with an exterior entrance. The shuttered interior has become a popular location for self-styled “urban explorers” who break into empty or abandoned buildings and video their experience to display on social media.