LACONIA — With a federal grant of more than $500,000 matched by the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund, city officials expect to complete five stretches of the downtown riverwalk during the next two years.
The pieces are coming together," said Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, who, with Planning Director Shanna Saunders, has shepherded the project.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the city a grant through its Transportation Alternative Program, which finances projects other than highways, including those to expand pedestrian access and enhance pedestrian safety. The grant will be matched virtually dollar for dollar by a share of the proceeds of a $6.4-million borrowing serviced by the annual revenue accruing to the Downtown TIF.
On the south bank of the Winnipesaukee River, the riverwalk will be extended westward from the Main Street Bridge along the rear of the Walgreen's property for about 500 feet. When the Main Street Bridge was built, a staircase was constructed to carry the riverwalk to Beacon Street West at the northwest corner of the bridge. Ultimately, this leg of the riverwalk will extend to Fair Street, where it will connect to WOW Trail. The estimated cost of the staircase and first leg of this stretch of the riverwalk is $302,800.
On the opposite bank of the river, where the riverwalk currently ends at the outlet of the Perley Canal, the the span over the canal and joining Beacon Street West will be completed. Originally Chinburg Builders, the firm that developed the Beacon Street West complex, intended to construct a building with seven condominium units over the canal, which would have required diverting the riverwalk around the building or running it across the front of the building. However, that plan appears to have been abandoned, leaving a clear path for the riverwalk over the canal. The estimated cost of this section is $164,000.
The remaining three legs of the riverwalk to be constructed lie east of the Main Street Bridge. The section from the north end of the City Hall parking lot to the Church Street Bridge, which will require spanning the inlet to the Perley Canal, has an estimated cost of $300,000.
Both the other legs to be built are on the opposite bank of the river. One would extend the riverwalk from the Church Street Bridge along River Street to its junction with Arch Street at an estimated cost of $166,000. The second, undertaken in conjunction with the construction of River's Edge, the apartment building developed by the Laconia Area Community Land Trust, would reach from Arch Street to the pedestrian bridge at the Avery Dam. This stage has an estimated cost of $150,000.
When these projects are complete, the riverwalk will run uninterrupted between the Fair Street Bridge and Church Street Bridge on the north bank of the river. On the south bank, a gap will remain between the Avery Dam and Stewart Park to the east of the Main Street Bridge and from Walgreen's to the Fair Street Bridge to the west.
Altogether the projects are estimated cost slightly more than $1-million, with the cost shared almost evenly between the TAP grant and TIF funds.
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