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Bottom Line: Hanover considers South Main Street redesign, including flush, no-curb sidewalks

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 8/1/2020 9:24:34 PM
Modified: 8/1/2020 9:24:32 PM

American small towns as we know them took shape at a time when Studebakers and DeSotos lined the streets and storefronts were occupied by the five-and-dime store and a pharmacy with a lunch counter. Just as $900 cars and 5-cent cups of coffee are lost to history, the structure of many downtowns remains stuck in the past.

Hanover officials are beginning to grapple with how their own downtown should look and function in the modern era, when it is no longer a shopping mecca but can still draw visitors to eat and socialize.

The public will get the first glimpse at how the town is approaching the challenge when the Planning Department presents various options to the Selectboard during a Zoom teleconference meeting Monday night.

Hanover’s proposal follows a similar effort underway in Claremont to revitalize its former shopping hub along Pleasant Street, now spotted with empty storefronts since the center of shopping gravity moved to the outskirts of the city and West Lebanon.

Downtown Hanover doesn’t need “revitalizing,” at least not like Claremont, although the town does have some health concerns as many shops have gone out of business and several restaurants have closed — most notably Salt hill Pub and Morano Gelato — because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rob Houseman, Hanover’s director of planning and zoning, said the town had been considering changes along South Main Street before COVID-19 hit, but the economic fallout from the pandemic has only added urgency to the project.

South Main was targeted as the first phase in a broader project when the “quiet time” in business activity created by the pandemic created “an opportunity to revisit downtown and look at what we can do to enhance it,” Houseman explained.

The town has engaged the civil engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen Inc. to work up several alternative concepts.

One proposal involves minimal changes such as switching from individual parking meters in front of parking spaces to a kiosk-style meter, different configurations of landscaping and crosswalk adjustments, all with an eye toward “maximizing public space.”

Another envisions more radical changes, like making sidewalks flush with the street — no curb, no step down — which would give South Main Street more of a piazza-like feel and make it easier for restaurants to have outdoor dining tables.

The “open space” concept allows for “greater flexibility in using the street for different things,” Houseman explained, such as closing it to traffic for street fairs and other public events “for a day or an evening.”

Outdoor dining has been a savior for South Main restaurants during the pandemic, as eateries set up dining tables in parking spaces and patrons discovered the pleasure of alfresco repast.

Houseman noted that eliminating the step-down sidewalk curb would also make the outdoor dining area easily accessible for people with disabilities and safer for restaurant workers shuttling between tables, kitchen and the bar.

He emphasized that any long-term allowances the town makes for outdoor dining are a separate issue from proposals to “re-vision” South Main Street, although he acknowledged it could well inform the option that is eventually adopted. (Hanover restaurants, which originally were given the parking spaces for outdoor dining until Labor Day weekend, have been granted an extension to operate outdoors until Oct. 31.)

“We have the ability to make downtown Hanover more enjoyable, a place to hang out with friends,” Houseman said. “We can make it like a public living room.”

Hartford doles out grants for small businesses

While Congress and the White House squabble over whether to provide more financial aid to small business owners struggling in the pandemic, the town of Hartford isn’t wasting time.

Green Mountain Economic Development Corp., which manages the Hartford Business Revolving Loan Fund, has opened a Business Recovery Grant Program funded by $50,000 from its revolving loan account. Any qualifying business in Hartford may apply for a $2,000 grant that can be used for recovery support from COVID-19-related issues.

Up to 25 grants — no repayment required — will be made via lottery in the initial grant round and, based upon demand, a second round of grants is anticipated, GMEDC said in a news release.

Check out GMEDC’s website for an application or contact GMEDC’s Mark Condon at mcondon@gmedc.com for more info.

Ledyard bank offers walk-through for PPP loan forgiveness

And remember: If you are a business that received a “loan” from the federal government Paycheck Protection Program to help cover your payroll during the shutdown of non-essential businesses — and hundreds of Upper Valley companies did — if you don’t want to be on the hook to repay that loan you are required to complete the proper forms and submit them to the Small Business Administration by Aug. 10.

Much of the PPP relief program is bewildering. (Like, how did big corporations get money that was supposed to go to small businesses?) So, to help guide you through the application process Ledyard National Bank is offering a free PPP loan forgiveness Zoom workshop on Friday, Aug. 7, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

The webinar — Ledyard can accommodate 1,000 callers — will walk participants step by step through the loan forgiveness application process, highlight common issues and errors and wrap up with a Q&A.

And you don’t even need to be a Ledyard client to participate.

The registration link is available at Ledyard’s website.

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Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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