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Franklin’s revitalization project picking up momentum

Franklin’s revitalization project picking up momentum

Concord Monitor | Elodie Reed

In his three decades of watching Franklin start and stop economic revitalization projects, Franklin Savings Bank President Ron Magoon said this time, something’s different.

“In 29 years, this is the first time there’s been all the right people at the table,” he said.

That includes city officials, local businesses, the nonprofit PermaCityLife and members of the public. Through collaborative efforts, new businesses have opened up downtown, an old mill building has been renovated for affordable housing, and plans have moved forward for a whitewater play park.

It was with confidence, then, that Franklin Savings Bank bought a quarter of the $400,000 in tax credits New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority awarded to the Franklin Business and Industrial Development Corporation in August.

Franklin Savings Bank made its investment in February. Bank of New Hampshire followed with a $25,000 purchase, and just recently, Eversource Energy bought up the remaining $275,000.

Now, that money will go toward facade improvements for buildings owned by PermaCityLife. They are slated to begin in July or August and last through the end of the year.

“There’s been so much deferred maintenance in these buildings,” Todd Workman, PermaCityLife’s executive director said. Buell’s Block, Shepard Block and 337 Central St. will all get a facelift, though through the above mentioned partnerships, the work has already begun.

Where once empty and boarded storefronts lined the bottom floor of Buell’s Block, new green-painted facades welcome visitors to a coffee shop and outdoor sports store.

Across the street at “Toad Hall,” the former art gallery is being renovated into a tavern – new paint covered the tin ceilings Monday, and the large windows will be replaced within the month.

All of these upgrades will continue with the CDFA tax credit money. More windows will be replaced in Buell’s Block, and the back of the building will have work done to make way for a brewery.

At 337 Central St., the three storefronts there will get “a complete redo,” Workman said.

This work is what moves PermaCityLife’s goals from planning to action, Workman said. And some of the organization’s permaculture ideas will become tangible, too: a “green roof” is part of the upgrade for 337 Central St.

When businesses with rooftop gardens, a tavern, shops and a fixed up city center are noticeable to those driving through, City Manager Elizabeth Dragon said, Franklin becomes a place people want to be.

“People buy with their eyes,” she said. “To be able to see some visible changes to the buildings will be able to help change the perception.”

Workman added, “The stigma goes away and people start to have confidence in the project.”

Franklin has a number of long-held stigmas to overcome, but given all that’s already happened in the downtown, the community partners there are optimistic.

“We have a lot of momentum building,” Dragon said. Workman regularly receives referrals for small businesses wanting to move to Franklin, and tradesmen, business owners and organizations already in the community are getting involved, too.

From the Franklin Business and Industrial Development Corporation’s perspective, the hope is that in addition to retail businesses, a stronger downtown Franklin will attract a skilled workforce.

“We have a shortage of skilled labor,” FBIDC director Jim Aberg said. “It’s one thing to have the jobs offered in the industrial park, but as people say, where’s my wife going to shop, where are my kids going to school?”

It’s a future that seems a little closer, at least to Franklin Savings Bank’s Magoon.

“If it fails this time, it’s never going to happen – this is the best shot we have and have ever had,” he said. “I think everyone is truly optimistic this is going to happen. And it is happening.”

http://www.concordmonitor.com/Franklin-NH-facade-improvements-fully-funded-9410846

I rode backwards down a ski hill in a kayak. On Saturday, you can too.

I rode backwards down a ski hill in a kayak. On Saturday, you can too.

Concord Monitor | Elodie Reed

   The author's friend and volunteer Orli Gottlieb finishes up a couple test-runs kayaking down the Veterans Memorial Recreation Ski Area in Franklin on Friday, the day before the Boat Bash Snow Crash event. Elodie Reed—Concord Monitor

 

The author's friend and volunteer Orli Gottlieb finishes up a couple test-runs kayaking down the Veterans Memorial Recreation Ski Area in Franklin on Friday, the day before the Boat Bash Snow Crash event. Elodie Reed—Concord Monitor

This job has landed me in some pretty peculiar circumstances. They range from holding a pig to eating meat from the same pig months later, listening to a state senator’s soliloquy about firecrackers, and walking in the woods with a Chichester woman who was wearing nothing but shorts and a sports bra in the middle of January. 

Then on Friday, I went kayaking down a Franklin ski hill.

Outdoor New England owner and paddler Marty Parichand lent me a boat for a “test-run” before today’s Boat Bash Snow Crash event at Veteran’s Memorial Ski Hill. For 12 hours, people can sled using kayaks provided by Parichand or canoes provided by Blackfly Canoes of New Hampton, listen to music, visit vendors and, starting at 3 p.m., compete in a downhill elimination race.

Parichand, who is holding the event in conjunction with the Franklin Outing Club, said it’s the first of its kind on the east coast. Only people in Colorado and Europe, apparently, have figured out before now that cruising downhill in a boat is actually a great idea.

A fact-check seemed important for this story. As Parichand led me over to a boat and handed me a helmet to squish on my head, I had another peculiar, though not uncommon, experience on the job: one of my best friends from high school pulled up in her car.

Orli Gottlieb, who is an engineer, fellow Bow High School alum and a board member for Parichand’s nonprofit whitewater park project, Mill City Park, agreed to sled with me. (She also became my iPhone videographer).

Snowmobiles and a T-bar will be up and running for the actual event, but we had to walk up the ski hill with our kayaks Friday. After slipping our way over some icy patches, we found a spot with reasonable elevation, and not in the immediate trajectory of anything we could hit.

(There was a big snow pile at the bottom of the hill – insurance, Parichand told me, just in case someone reaches top-end speeds).

Orli and I sat into our short kayaks, though my winter boots made it difficult to get my legs bent enough so they were completely inside. I didn’t have a paddle – I needed my hands to hold my camera.

“With a paddle you’d be able to control which end is going forward,” Parichand told me.

I shrugged like the amateur I was.

Orli expertly managed to balance both paddle and my iPhone, and she scooted her boat forward first. I followed – rocking back and forth with perfect muscle memory from my childhood sledding days – and off we went.

I rode backwards, giggling, for half of the hill. But all’s well that end’s well: I finished my run with grace, sliding in smoothly – and frontwards – next to Orli.

There was more giggling after that.

We did just a small portion of today’s course. Parichand told me there would be two tracks side-by-side for the races, though before those could be made, they needed a whole lot more snow after the past few weeks of warm temperatures.

The Veterans Memorial Recreation Ski Area has never made its own snow. But with donated hoses, compressors and snow gun stands, the retired Franklin Fire Department member and “Goddamned genius” Alan Carignan, and half a dozen volunteers, it was possible.

Getting the hoses connected right, controlling for the best pressure, and stopping the snow guns from tipping over (and spraying my entire pantleg) took a little while. But by 4:30 p.m. Friday, Parichand and his crew were making snow.

They expected to cover the hill in 8 to 12 inches throughout the night, with some time to spare to construct the race course.

Parichand and his crew have been working long hours to make the Snow Bash Boat Crash come to fruition. They only got the snow makers functioning correctly at 1:30 a.m. Friday morning, and they weren’t sure how much sleep they would get, if any, the night before the event.

With proceeds from the event going to both the Mill City Park project and the Franklin Outing Club, plus the general momentum for outdoor sports and downtown development in Franklin, Parichand told me he’s okay pulling all-nighters to make some snow. 

“There isn’t anything I’d rather be doing,” he said.

The Boat Bash Snow Crash will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. today. Entry just to watch is $5 per person, $20 to sled, and $25 to sled and race.

http://www.concordmonitor.com/Franklin-NH-boat-bash-kayak-sledding-8404420