LACONIA — The Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Board yesterday agreed to ask the City Council to authorize a borrowing of $1,530,000 to fund construction of stretches of the WOW Trail and downtown riverwalk.
Earlier the TIF Advisory Board proposed a package of seven projects with a price tag of $1,350,000 that included $400,000 to extend the WOW Trail between Main Street and Fair Street, $25,000 to add signage and kiosks to the riverwalk and WOW Trail, $181,000 to connect the Main Street Bridge to the riverwalk behind the Landmark Inn, $121,800 to extend the riverwalk through the adjacent Walgreen's property, and $300,000 to carry the riverwalk from behind the old police station, now studios of the Binnie Media Group, up to the Church Street bridge. Moreover, the council agreed in August to spend $275,000 improving the "Gateway Plaza" at the foot of Main Street and in October to spending $35,000 to extend a 10 inch water main from Main Street to Veteran's Square to service the former Evangelical Baptist Church, which is being converted to a restaurant.
This week the TIF Advisory Board agreed to add to its package by including the last segment of the riverwalk at Beacon Street West, the former Allen-Rogers property, where it joins the Main Street Bridge. The board estimated the cost of the project at $164,000.
When the TIF Advisory Board presented its proposal to the council last week some were surprised to find that the route of the riverwalk through Beacon Street West was not included and that the original route had been altered. Both the Main Street Initiative and several councilors openly favored completing the riverwalk along the north bank of the river before investing in segments along the south bank.
Originally Chinburg Builders, the developer of Beacon Street West, intended to reconstruct a building over the mouth of the Perley Canal that collapsed under a snowload and incorporate the riverwalk in the project as a cantilevered walkway over the water. However, the firm abandoned it plan to rebuild and instead chose to convert the large commercial building on the property to apartments. As part of its site plan, Chinburg proposed an alternate route for the riverwalk, which the Planning Board approved in 2008. Instead of following the riverbank, the pathway would pass through the residential complex to join Beacon Street West significantly north of the bridge.
In a memorandum to the council the, Main Street Initiative urged the TIF Advisory Board to complete the section of the riverwalk connecting Beacon Street West to its original design.
When the board met this week, attorney Pat Wood reminded members that the easement for the riverwalk granted by Chinburg Builders is 15 feet along the bank of the river. At the same time, City Manager Scott Myers recalled that when the council considered the project a week ago Jack Terrill, speaking as a condominium owner at Beacon Street West, said that the riverwalk should be fenced on the north side to prevent trespassing. Noting that the alternative route proposed by Chinburg Builders and approved by the Planning Board would take the riverwalk through the midst of the complex, he expected residents would prefer that the route follow the riverbank as originally intended.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders agreed to approach Chinburg about returning to the original route and applying funds allocated to the alternative route to its construction.
Altogether the estimated cost of the projects is $1,530,000, which includes the fees for preparing and selling a general obligation bond and and a small amount for contingencies. The funds would be borrowed against the annual revenue to the TIF account at an estimated interest rate of four-percent over 20 years. The TIF account has a current balance of $311,353 and projected revenue of $173,687 in 2014 and an additional amount each year thereafter for a total of $4,250,212 during the next 20 years. City Manager Scott Myers has assured the council that the revenue accruing to the TIF fund is sufficient to service the proposed debt and, within a reasonable time, support another borrowing.
The City Council will consider the board's proposal at a special meeting beginning at 6 p.m., prior to its regularly scheduled meeting, on Monday, December 23.