Downtown upgrade tied to parking

Devoting resources to improve parking maintenance is great, while putting surveillance cameras on streetlights is a bad idea and spending money on graffiti removal is so-so.
These were among the results of a public information meeting Tuesday sponsored by a committee charged with recommending ways to improve the citys downtown.
The Services Advisory Committee originally was formed to explore the concept of creating a downtown district in which property owners would pay a tax for beautification projects and marketing. Such a Business Improvement District, or BID, has been credited with bringing improvements to downtown Manchester and some other cities.
In Nashua, the committee voted not to recommend levying a tax, but it has continued work on other ways to improve the downtown.
The public information meeting was moderated by Tom Galligani, the city economic development director, and attended by about 45 people, including merchants, residents and a handful of city aldermen.
Parking rose to become the No. 1 concern cited during the meeting, followed by the poor condition of the brick sidewalks, pedestrian safety and security, lighting and other factors.
Galligani shared the results of two surveys, one that tapped the opinions of merchants, and a second that gauged consumers feelings about shopping downtown.
The surveys showed a good match between merchants target demographic and the consumers most likely to shop downtown: middle-age women, mainly from the Nashua area, with a household income of $75,000 or more.
However, there was a poor match between the hours that downtown stores were open and the hours consumers said they preferred to shop: Namely, most stores werent open Friday nights and during weekends.
The survey also addressed shopping destinations, what brings people downtown and what the downtown now lacks: a movie theater, a performing arts center and a bookstore were among the items cited in the survey.
Paul Keegan, owner of 1 World Trading Co., disagreed that the biggest competitors for downtown shops were national chains and big-box retail.
Rather, downtown Nashuas competition for shoppers are the downtowns in places like Portsmouth and Lowell, Mass., Keegan said.
Theres a type of person who shops downtown and visits these cool stores, and theres a type of person who shops in big-box stores, he said.
The number of empty storefronts was one issue brought out at the meeting, and downtown resident Jim Vayo saw a reason for the retail vacancies.
The reason stores are empty is because theres not enough people living downtown, Vayo said.
Theres housing for low-income people and housing for upscale. Its the in-between thats missing, said Laurie Goodman, who works on the staff of U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes.
When the issue of recruiting businesses was brought up, Galligani noted that its not his top priority in this economy.
As the economic development director, Im not worried about recruiting right now because theres no time for it. Im worried about stores closing up, he said.
A lot of discussion concerned how to attract shoppers to retail stores on side streets, with additional signs and better lighting mentioned as possible solutions.
Parking, however, was the top issue. The problem wasnt a lack of parking so much as people feeding meters all day in prime spaces in front of businesses, Galligani said.
Angled-in parking and a pay-and-display system, such as the one in Manchester, were discussed as possible improvement.
The committee will consider the comments from the meeting, said Mary Lou Blaisdell, committee chairwoman and owner of DesignWares.
The next public input meeting will be May 4 to discuss funding sources, Blaisdell said.
City of nashua
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