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Village District revitalization proposals unveiled in Belmont

A sketch developed by Randy Knowles of Knowles Design in Goffstown gives an artistic concept of Main Street in Belmont, and was part of a public presentation made by a team of architects and designers last week in conjunction with the Belmont Village Revitalization Committee. (Courtesy) (click for larger version)
December 21, 2011
BELMONT — Residents and business owners in Belmont got their first glimpse of preliminary concepts for revitalization of the Village District last week, when representatives from Hoyle, Tanner Associates, Castagna Consulting Group and Knowles Design outlined their vision for possible improvements to Main Street and the surrounding downtown neighborhood.

Ron Cormier, the selectmen's representative to the Village Revitalization Committee, said the committee and design team had been working with citizens to generate ideas, and wanted to offer the first in a series of public presentations in hopes of gaining more feedback on future plans for Belmont Village.

Michael Castagna of Castagna Consulting told residents last Thursday evening that the team had taken the visions and desires to change the look and feel of the village which were expressed during a charrette in 2010, and worked to develop some possible options to make those ideas a reality.

"There was a real desire to make changes in the physical and social aspects of Belmont, and make the village area more vibrant. Those desires are all tangible and reachable," Castagna said.

Among the proposed ideas from the three companies were a traffic pattern change on Fuller Street, as well as added parking and green space along Main Street. "Bump outs" along the Main Street sidewalks would provide space for trees and flowers in front of the current businesses.

"There, of course, are issues to be worked out with Public Works about plowing in the winter, and who would care for those bump outs in the summer months, but it would enhance the look of the town, with more green space and not so much asphalt when you look down the street," said Chris Mulleavy of Hoyle, Tanner Associates.

Two options, with "plenty of gray areas for change or perhaps a whole new Option 3," showed ideas such as underground electrical wires from Depot Street to Center Street, and additional sidewalks built along some of the village thoroughfares to increase pedestrian traffic and safety.

Shown in both Options One and Two was a pavilion across the river from the Belmont Mill building, for which the town was just recently awarded a grant to construct.

Looking at the plans, one resident suggested that some of the area along the Tioga River beside that pavilion be used as a dog park. Selectman Ron Cormier, representative to the Revitalization Committee, concurred.

"When we build the pavilion, perhaps we can delineate some space for that use. We don't need all of the land over there for parking. There's plenty of space for that, too," Cormier said.

Other features of Option 1 were to add better sidewalks along Main, Fuller and Mill Streets, add trees and adjust parking locations for better access and utilization of land behind the library.

Option 2 was very similar to the first, with the major difference being traffic flow in the village. It called for the closure of Mill Street, which would be converted to green space, and proposed moving the bandstand onto some of that additional lawn.

Center Street, with the exception of access to one home and the former bank building, would also be closed to traffic and the parking lot beside the library would become a new access road to the Mill, with parking along the side.

Cormier said he personally liked the second concept, as it gave a more "campus-like" atmosphere to the town with an uninterrupted, centrally located village common.

"Right now, we primarily only have space behind the library, and people don't even knows it's there," said Cormier.

Extending the green space up Mill Street would add grassy areas to Main Street and draw more attention to activities in the village, he added. Events would be visible to the public and not tucked out of sight behind the library. Selectman David Morse agreed.

"This is much more useable green space, more prominent along Main Street, and it would bring the bandstand back to its more visible, historic location," he said.

Designer Randy Knowles said the options, as presented for consideration, also included plans to build an addition on the town library. While some commented that perhaps more parking could be made available, most seemed to agree that more green space was the major desire.

"Maybe we're looking at an Option 3, a combination of these two plans after listening to what people are saying tonight," Knowles said.

Overall, Mulleavy said the evening's discussions went very well, and he was encouraged by both the feedback and public support for their initial concepts.

"In the end, this is their community, and their input is important. We just hope to see things logistically better for them long after we're gone from this project," Mulleavy said.

The team has now gone back to the drawing board to make adaptations based on what was said last week. A second public presentation is scheduled for mid-January, with a third planned in March to hopefully finalize a workable, economically feasible vision for Belmont's Village District, which the residents approve.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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