Lebanon to Unveil Downtown Plans

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/2/2016 12:03:14 AM
Modified: 6/2/2016 12:03:21 AM

Lebanon — City officials will unveil their preferred vision of a future downtown today during the Lebanon Farmers Market and at an evening forum.

The vision takes into account more than 1,100 comments collected during two public surveys and past forums, Planning Director David Brooks said. It will also utilize the best ideas from four proposed alternatives presented at previous meetings.

Brooks said a steering committee and consultants began sifting through comments after the last survey closed in April. Some preferences on street locations and development received a wide consensus, he said, while the groups had to work harder on other aspects of downtown where public opinion was split.

Brooks declined to discuss the plan in detail, saying he didn’t want to give too much away before the forum. He did say, however, the committee is leaning toward a plan to keep the downtown railroad tunnel.

The dilapidated tunnel under the mall helped kick off the downtown visioning after city officials found it in need of repairs in 2014, and closed the parking lot above shortly after.

Alternative plans for downtown included upgrading the tunnel, filling it in, or replacing it with a new street or street extension.

“I think where we’re going is keeping the tunnel,” Brooks said. “We’ll take steps to obviously keep it safe, keep it secure (and) make it more attractive than it’s been in the past.”

As part of the visioning study, Massachusetts-based consulting firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin researched the costs associated with the different tunnel plans. The cheapest option is to fill in the tunnel at a cost of $1.8 million. Repairing the tunnel for use as part of the Mascoma River Greenway would cost an estimated $2 million, the consultants found.

After tonight’s forum, consultants will begin work on a final report with a design of downtown. Brooks said the guide will help the city determine how to implement the plan, pay for it and differentiate downtown from other Upper Valley hotspots.

Project consultants will set up a booth at the Lebanon Farmers Market today from 4 to 6 p.m. to unveil the preferred vision. A meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m. in the Lebanon Opera House.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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