Pushing for Creativity

Laundry rooms on every floor. Heat and hot water included. And from the fifth floor, views from high above Storrs and Theatre streets.

CATCH Neighborhood Housing’s Mennino Place building, with 45 units of income-restricted housing, is nearly ready to welcome its first tenants after nearly a year of construction. And the nonprofit is making a fresh push to sign up local artists to occupy up to half its apartments.

“This is a unique opportunity for CATCH to play a really important role in the community, not just providing housing, but helping advance the creative economy. . . . I think that this is really community revitalization at its best, because it’s not done in a way that’s exclusionary,” said Rosemary Heard, CATCH’s president.
The building contains one- and two-bedroom apartments, with a total project cost above $9 million. Mike Reed, CATCH’s director of real estate and asset management, said he hopes to get a certificate of occupancy from the city by Halloween, well ahead of the dedication ceremony scheduled for Nov. 17.

It’s part of the redevelopment of the old Sanel Block, which developer Steve Duprey razed last year. He built the Smile Building at 49 S. Main St. and sold the back of the lot to CATCH.
Milestone Engineering & Construction went to work last November. By last week, the smell of fresh paint hung in the air and plastic sheeting covered hallway carpets.
“It’s got that new building smell,” said Tim Sink, president of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, during a tour.

Reed said construction has gone smoothly.

“This project, we’ve had weekly construction meetings that have been the most boring construction meetings of any project I’ve worked on,” he said. “It’s gone very well.”
The 45 apartments have strict income limits for tenants and rent varies by income level. CATCH has created a “preference policy” to attract artists to the building – with Red River Theatres and the Capitol Center for the Arts nearby, and the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen newly relocated to Duprey’s building next door, they hope to create an arts district of sorts.

Artists, including singers, poets, sculptors and photographers, won’t be judged on the quality of their work, Heard said. But to move in, they must earn at least 20 percent of their income from art, and they need to meet the building’s overall income requirements.

“All of our projects, we get a lot of interest, and then, because of the income requirements . . . we’ll go through a couple hundred inquires to get to 45,” Reed said.

Reed said he expects Mennino Place to be fully leased by spring.

More information about the building, its income requirements and the artist preference policy is available online at catchhousing.org/mennino.html.

Boutique’s big expansion
Families in Transition has found a new home for its OutFITters Thrift Store Boutique, which opened nearly two years ago in Bicentennial Square.

The homeless-services nonprofit bought the three-story building at 20-20½ S. Main St., just north of the Concord Cooperative Market, last month for $532,000. The building used to house the Concord Academy of Hair Design, and the property has a total assessed value of $646,900.

Armed with more than a quarter-million dollars in state tax credits, Families in Transition has been looking to relocate its Concord store onto Main Street. It had its eye on the old Ritz Camera storefront at 32 N. Main St., but a deal fell through.

“We had looked at this property, actually, a couple of years ago, and the price was much higher than it was come July. And so then we decided we would look elsewhere,” said Michele Talwani, the group’s director of economic development and marketing. “And when things sort of fell through on the Ritz Camera space, we went back to this house. We could see a vision behind it.”

Talwani said the first floor is being renovated, and the boutique will open there by late November or early December.

The building also contains office space, which Talwani said Red River Theatres will continue to occupy, and two market-rate apartments, which she said the group would continue to rent out.

It’s a big expansion: The boutique’s current space at 5 Market Lane is about 400 square feet, and the new store will be roughly 4,300 square feet, Talwani said. That’s bigger even than the group’s flagship thrift store in Manchester, which she said is about 4,000 square feet. Revenue from the stores goes to support Families in Transition’s programs.

“It’s such a growing area of Main Street,” Talwani said of the new location. “We just feel there’s great synergy in that area.”

Endicott emptying out
CATCH is on track to renovate the Endicott Hotel as planned next year, and the group says most tenants have moved out of the building at the corner of South Main Street and Pleasant Street Extension.

In March, when the nonprofit went public with its plans to convert the building from 36 low- and moderate-income units to 24 market-rate apartments, there were 33 people living there. By the end of the month, all but 12 will have moved out, according to Heard, the group’s president.

Heard said the relocation is going “very well,” and she said Riverbend Community Mental Health has helped with the process. A handful of Endicott residents, she said, are expected to move to Mennino Place when it’s ready.

Halloween’s howl
Zombies, trick-or-treating and a costume parade: Halloween Howl is back.

The annual Halloween celebration, organized by Main Street Concord, is scheduled for Friday. North Main Street between Centre and Pleasant streets will shut down from 4 to 8 p.m. for the event.

Trick-or-treating at downtown shops will start at 5:30 p.m., the costume parade will kick off from the State House at 6 p.m. and wagon rides will be offered from Capitol Street from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., according to Kim Murdoch, interim executive director.

Murdoch said Main Street Concord decided this year to discontinue its scarecrow-decorating contest. But starting at 5:30 p.m., she said, Granite State Roller Derby will lead a zombie walk north from the intersection of Main and Pleasant streets.
A full schedule is available online at mainstreetconcord.com.

The art of law
Sulloway & Hollis is showing off its artistic side.

Thursday marks the kickoff of “About Face: New Paintings by Kendra O’Donnell,” the latest show at the law firm’s Robert M. Larsen Gallery at 29 School St. The exhibition runs through April 27, with an opening reception Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m.

Attorney Jay Surdukowski, who runs the gallery, said the exhibition is “a break from the last couple shows” there, which showcased 10 or 12 artists each. More than 20 paintings by O’Donnell, the former principal of Phillips Exeter Academy, will be on display. She’s represented by Concord’s McGowan Fine Art.

“She’s someone who has had a pretty successful career not as an artist . . . and since retiring, she’s taken on painting as her full vocation,” Surdukowski said.

Happy birthday
Just Be boutique is celebrating its first anniversary at 62 N. Main St.

Michelle Lienhart opened the store Oct. 29 last year as a temporary shop for the holidays, and she stuck around into the new year. She’s throwing a birthday party Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., that will feature face painting, hot cocoa and cider and a buy-one, get-one-free sale on t-shirts.

Lienhart said last week that she’s in for the long haul, “if I can keep going. September and October have been a little slow, but it’s kind of like that almost anywhere. Other merchants on Main Street have been saying the same thing.”

She said she’s hoping for a strong holiday shopping season.

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