Council to took at details of $252k downtown 'gateway' plan on Monday

LACONIA — The Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Board will present a revised plan for improvements to what has been dubbed "Gateway Plaza" on the north side of the Main Street bridge to the City Council when it meets Monday night.

The plan consists of adding four elements to the existing space. Planting beds edged with granite curbing, each with two shade trees, would be placed in front of Sawyer's Jewelry to the west and near the entrance to the parking garage to the east. In addition, to the planting bed there would be a brick island with planters and benches on the west side of the foot of Main Street. A green space, ringed with shade trees and lined granite seating, would front the Grace Capital Church, accented by circular brick plaza, 20 feet in diameter, at the corner of Main Street and Beacon Street West. Finally, a brick island with planters and would lie along Beacon Street East overlooking the Winnipesaukee River.

The budget for the project is $252,276.

The Advisory Board suggested landscaping the traffic island, by installing irrigation and granite curbing, as an option with an estimated price tag of $11,730.

The original plan proposed replacing the concrete fronting Grace Capital Church and the parking garage on one side and Sawyer's Jewelry on the other with brick pavers and both areas would be landscaped with shade trees and raised planters. Intended as a pedestrian plaza, it would include granite benches, timbered seating, trellises, sculpture and lighting. The traffic island on the bridge itself would also be landscaped. The cost of the design was estimated at between $417,000 and $455,000 depending on the type of materials used.

When the Main Street Initiative group questioned whether investing in a pedestrian plaza at one of the busiest intersections in the city, the council trimmed the budget to include infrastructure — irrigation, drainage and electricity — required to support improvements while reducing the scope of the landscaping. The cost of the revised plan falls within the limits of between $250,000 and $300,000 set by the council.