Littleton residents advised to expand area to revitalizeBy KRISTI GAROFALO
Sunday News Correspondent
September 23. 2012 12:06AM
LITTLETON - A group of business owners and residents plan to put the 'last piece of the puzzle' into the downtown redevelopment.
The group held three 'listening sessions' and a community barbecue over the weekend to gather ideas for use of the Saranac Street neighborhood bordered by Main Street on one side and the Ammonoosuc River on the other.
'This is a badly neglected neighborhood,' said Ray Cloutier, owner of the Tannery Marketplace and chairman of the Saranac Street Revitalization Committee. 'It needs to go from badly neglected to asset in every way.'
Friday's afternoon session drew about 20 people and was facilitated by Jeff Taylor, a land use planner from Concord and member of the nonprofit group Plan New Hampshire.
Plan NH also brought a civil engineer, construction expert and landscape and building architects to the sessions.
'Our thought is we need to be thinking larger than Saranac Street,' Taylor told the group. He said including Mill Street, the river and the river walk as part of the discussion made sense.
Main Street business owner Jim Alden said he saw Saranac and Mill Street as being a link to the river, which he considered one of the prime assets in town.
'If that's our link to the river, then anything we can do to enhance that link supports visitors to Main Street,' he said.
Suggestions were made at the session to include parking for tour buses, educational facilities for hospitality and culinary arts, museums and artist space in the planning.
Attendees also discussed project funding, traffic circulation, nonfunctional storm drains and damaged sidewalks, along with concerns about retaining the history of the area.
Local attorney Brien Ward made a 'riverfront development plan' presentation to include Meadow Street from Industrial Park Road to Saranac to riverfront, encompassing Ammonoosuc, Green, Mill and Saranac streets.
Both Taylor and Ward recommended finding a way to tie in to the recreational trail on the other side of the river.
'You'll have your recreational corridor over there, you'll have your riverfront development, and then you'll have your Main Street,' Ward said. 'That ultimately will be something that will totally separate ourselves from other communities.'
Ward pointed to $10 million in downtown redevelopment projects previously done and said there was 'no reason, with creativity, that can't happen again.'
'I hope anyone who's interested, stays interested because this can be the final project that pulls it all together,' he said, as the group applauded.
The Plan NH group toured the area and facilitated sessions on Friday and held an interactive workshop on Saturday.
Preliminary drawings and recommendations were presented to the town on Saturday. Final recommendations, including suggestions for funding, will be available in about six weeks, Taylor said.
'Hopefully, after this we'll put together groups to work on pieces of the puzzle,' said Cloutier.
Plan NH was formed in 1989 to foster excellence in sustainable planning, design and development of the built environment. Members volunteer their time and expertise to work with communities in need of design assistance. More information go to plannh.org.
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Kristi Garofalo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.