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November 17. 2012 8:27PM

Incubator fueling Plymouth's economic renewal


Workers on the roof of 149 Main St. in Plymouth on Friday prepare the building for demolition this week. The building will go from a vacant 4,000-square-foot storefront to a 12,000-square-foot business incubator, called The Enterprise Center of Plymouth. Plymouth is busy with construction projects both in town and on the Tenney Mountain Highway. (PAULA TRACY/UNION LEADER)

PLYMOUTH - Plymouth is busy with business construction projects both downtown and on Tenney Mountain Highway.

This week, a vacant building at 149 Main St. will be razed to make way for the Enterprise Center of Plymouth, a business incubator that will offer entrepreneurs downtown office space and technical help from the business program at Plymouth State University.

A federal grant of almost $800,000 will be used to help develop the 4,000-square-foot space into 12,000 square feet - enough room for as many as 20 businesses at a time, said officials of the Grafton County Economic Development Council, which is pulling the project together. It is already employing New Hampshire builders, engineers and architectural firms that will be working to complete the project by next fall.

On Tenney Mountain Highway, work has begun in a field across from the terminus of Highland Street for a new McDonald's Restaurant and Bank of New Hampshire. The project is still awaiting permitting from the state to alter the terrain.

A comprehensive plan for what the Route 25 corridor should look like in the future is also going forward, said Sharon Penney, town planner.

One proposal, which would require state approval, is to build a roundabout at the intersection with Smith Bridge Road, similar to the one downtown, which has been considered a resounding success, Penney said.

Town Administrator Paul Freitas said he thinks one reason the town has fared so well in the tough economy is that it has done a good job seeking and obtaining grants to keep the infrastructure solid. Penney added that the town's location along important highway systems make it attractive for business development.

Freitas calls Exit 26 of Interstate 93 "Plymouth's lake." Some communities have lakes that draw people, he said. Plymouth has Tenney Mountain Highway.

"The corridor is important. It was identified in the master plan as where the town wanted to see development," he said.

Michael McGinley of Gilford, owner of Riverside Landing LLC, who developed the site for Tractor Supply on Boulder Point Drive, is preparing his property for a two-lot commercial development.

It is directly adjacent to the highway and will require a new light to make a four-way intersection at Highland Street.

McGinley owns more than 70 acres on the site, which had once been considered for a Lowe's.

There are no plans to expand the use of that land; however, the design would allow for a feeder development if it could be approved in the future, Penney said. Concerns for development of the flood plain have been expressed in the past.

Another limitation to building along the Tenney Mountain Highway is that it is a state highway with limited curb cuts allowed, particularly on the eastern end near the highways.

Penney said most of the corridor has been developed, and now reuse and redevelopment is more likely.

Brian Murphy, building inspector and zoning officer, agreed with Penney that the town has been able to weather the downturn in the economy fairly well.

A drive through the commercial areas of the community find few vacancy signs on buildings or evidence that Plymouth has been suffering through a recession.

"I think Plymouth has a lot going for it," Murphy said, noting there has also been residential development and there are existing subdivisions for single-family homes that are not yet built-out.

The Enterprise Center will be at the gateway to Main Street and will be built slightly back from the roundabout, he said. It will also be brick and three stories tall rather than one story.

A similar business incubator developed by GCEDC in the Upper Valley has led to more than 200 new jobs in that region.

North Woodstock's Alba Architects is in charge of the design. Cobb Hill Construction of Concord is the general contractor, and the engineering work is being done by H.E. Bergeron Engineers Inc. of Conway.

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Paula Tracy may be reached at ptracy@unionleader.com.



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