Story of the year No. 10: Development and infrastructure in Concord

  • South Main Street now boasts these fancy signs telling people where to go. There are some of these big, map-style ones on the sidewalks and some smaller ones (in the background) along the side of the road for motorists. Never get lost on Main Street again!

  • Plant operator Neil Stewart of Manchester opens an access door to one of the boiler furnaces at the Concord Steam Corp. plant in Concord on Tuesday, June 9, 2015.(ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The new Sewalls Falls Bridge is looking pretty nice these days.

  • Waitress Kathy Mangano serves up coffee around midnight at the Red Arrow Diner in Londonderry.

  • The east entrance of the Steeplegate Mall in Concord is seen earlier this year. Monitor file photos

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Sewalls Falls bridge was open in November 2016 after 16 months of construction. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 12/26/2016 10:34:36 PM

The Main Street Project and Sewalls Falls Bridge were completed. The Steeplegate Mall was sold. Concord Steam is closing.

One of the most consistent themes in Concord this year was change. And if infrastructure doesn’t get you excited remember that two boring properties along Loudon Road are being demolished to make way for a Dairy Queen and Red Arrow Diner.

In the world of road projects, the city checked off a few long-awaited boxes this year. The $13 million Main Street Project and $11 million Sewalls Falls Bridge both finished in November, reimagining the downtown and reconnecting neighborhoods on the east and west sides of the city.

Construction on a long-envisioned roundabout where Route 132 interacts with Interstate 93’s Exit 16 will also begin next spring.

One road that won’t be dramatically changing is Loudon Road. After engineers planned a “road diet” to change it from four lanes to three, with a center turning lane, residents of the Heights neighborhood spoke up to say they worried the design would amplify traffic congestion.

City councilors voted in September to keep the current configuration, effectively turning away a $1.4 million federal grant awarded for the perceived safety benefit of the redesign. Local taxpayers will instead foot the bill of more than $1 million for repaving and pedestrian improvements on the road.

One big change that wasn’t planned – at least not this soon – was the impending closure of Concord Steam. With the city’s only steam supplier announcing in July that it planned to go out of business in less than a year, nearly 200 downtown buildings were left to find another heat source, including city fixtures as prominent as the State House and Concord High School.

The required conversion pinned the Concord School District and state government with $9 million and $15 million expenses, respectively.

Another institution that is retooling in a different way is the Steeplegate Mall. The 26-year-old mall was sold in June for $10.3 million to a New York-based realty group with a reputation for turning around retail sites. The sale price was a fraction of the property’s $83 million assessed value in 2008.

While it may be hard for many residents to get excited about road construction, heating sources and mall owners, two developments along Loudon Road got a lot of people talking this year.

First it was a plan to turn a long-abandoned plot that formerly housed a movie theater and video rental store into a Dairy Queen. That was approved by the zoning and planning boards in May.

Then it was a separate plan to knock down one of two adjacent gas stations and replace one with a Red Arrow Diner, a 24-hour New Hampshire chain with a famed flagship in Manchester. That was approved by the zoning board in September.

Both sites are under construction and will continue to take shape into the new year. The same goes for two prominent housing projects, the redevelopment of the historic Sacred Heart Church into condos and Remi Hinxhia’s reconstruction of the former Vegas Block.

The cherry on top of downtown developments was the dome on top of the State House, which proudly shined anew after a monthslong gilding process. It began to shed its scaffolding in August, revealing a glittering peak in the city.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at
@NickBReid.)


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