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The following are excerpts from
20/20 Vision of Concord, NH
Concord: City of Villages


Over the years, as various industries established themselves along the Merrimack River, developments emerged around them and a pattern was clearly established. The river was the organizing point of life in what was to become known as the City of Concord. Today, those patterns of development tracing back to colonial days can still be read in the landscape of the city. Six villages lie within the Merrimack River Valley: Penacook, West Concord, East Concord, The Heights, Downtown, and the South End. While some of the villages are more proximate to the riverbank than others, each shares common characteristics while expressing its own distinct character. Each village has a critical mass of residential development, often served by its own school, and neighborhood parks. All combine residential, commercial and open space uses, although there are different proportions of these uses in each. While village boundaries are not always clearly distinct, the centers of the villages, however small, are indisputable.

Aerial view of PenacookPENACOOK

Located six miles north of Downtown Concord, Penacook is a well-defined village with a central commercial core serving the surrounding residential neighborhoods. Several industrial facilities and office buildings provide jobs within the village, and neighborhood schools and churches and a branch library round out the mixed-use character of the village.

Penacook has a strong identity as a distinct village in the city. Located at the northwest border of Concord abutting Boscawen, Penacook has largely been a discrete community since its founding. Reinforcing this distinction, Penacook is located in a different school district, the Merrimack Valley School District, and has a different zip code and telephone exchange than the rest of Concord.

Penacook developed on the banks of the Contoocook River, taking advantage of the waterpower provided by the river. As the mills grew, Penacook became a center of local textile manufacturing, and later, furniture manufacturing. Today, the Contoocook continues to contribute to the character of Penacook with new parks and housing located next to former and current industrial sites on the river.

Village Street is the main street in Penacook and connects the village with West Concord, Downtown and Boscawen. East Street and Hoit Road provide access to Exit 17 of I-93. These roadways lead to the center of Penacook where commercial uses are concentrated. While the small commercial core plays an important role in establishing the image of Penacook, the older buildings are not typically favored by many of today's businesses. Vacancies and some signs of disinvestment detract from the quality of the village. [(a) on map]

Map of Penacook sectionsTraditional residential blocks surround the commercial center. Older homes and institutional uses line the streets near the center. Newer residential developments located to the southwest of the core follow a loop and cul-de-sac pattern of development. Only small greenfield sites (virgin open space, undeveloped and free of environmental hazards) remain in Penacook for new development. Some opportunities for infill or redevelopment within the core exist as well. Reuse of the Tannery, which could accommodate between approximately 100,000 square feet of mixed-use space, would generate significant new activity in the village. [(b) on map]

"Downtown Penacook" is an attractive traditional commercial center that has the potential to become a truly wonderful space. Today, the needs of the car dominate the core, impacting and minimizing the pedestrian accommodations. At the heart of the village, where Village Street, Washington Street, Sanders Street and Summer Street all come together, pavement is prolific. Only a small green with a gazebo punctuates one corner, appearing to be little used and somewhat out of the way instead of providing an active public space for Penacook. Opportunities to reclaim portions of pavement to create a new "village green" would enhance the commercial core, providing a sense of civic pride for the community. [(c) on map]

While Penacook has traditionally maintained a distinct identity, recent development to the south along Village Street has begun to blur the boundary between West Concord and Penacook. The lack of a clear edge and defined gateway erodes the sense of identity and character of the village. [(d) on map]


A "City of Villages" is a Vision that protects Concord's character while celebrating the uniqueness of the villages and the neighborhoods they serve. The villages can be strengthened by guidelines for future growth and by clear goals for improvements and protections for the things residents know and love. While each village has its separate set of recommendations and implementation actions, there are general recommendations that can be applied to all villages:

  • Creation or emphasis on pedestrian-friendly village centers through the preparation of traffic and mobility studies for village centers, which include bike and pedestrian routes and the design and installation of traffic-calming elements and sidewalks.
  • Concentration of future growth within the village centers. As part of the master planning process to begin in 2002, Village District boundaries should be set and guidelines written for each of the five villages and for Downtown. If necessary, rezoning efforts should occur in order to promote this concentrated growth and to discourage sprawling subdivisions and a dispersed retail and employment center. Concentrated development can also be facilitated through establishment and implementation of a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program.
  • Connection of the villages to each other, to Downtown and to open space by trails and paths through the design and construction of an interconnected network building on existing trail fragments and systems.
  • Street guidelines that limit cul-de-sac use and focus on traditional street grids that offer transportation choices, diffuse traffic, and create opportunities for public encounters.


  • Create pedestrian-friendly village centers
  • Concentrate future growth in the village centers
  • Connect the villages to each other, to open space, and to Downtown with trails, paths and bike lanes
  • Provide for mixed land uses in the village centers



  • Redevelop the Tannery into a mixed-use complex of housing, office & retail n Encourage housing that continues existing street patterns
  • Encourage market rate and upper income housing
  • Establish a new village center near West Concord on Fisherville Road
  • Provide bike paths along Penacook Street and the river

Redevelopment of the Tannery into 100,000 sq. ft. of mixed-use, mixed-income housing, office, and retail will save one of the few mill buildings in Concord and support downtown Penacook. This development is a good example of a high-profile project that could be undertaken by a new redevelopment authority as part of a public-private partnership with the owners of the property. It is highly likely that some form of public incentives will be necessary to initiate this project. [(a) on map]

Points on the MapPenacook is a historic village in Concord with a rich history; Route 3 was a major trade route from the beginning of settlement in this area. A new village green at the intersection of Sanders, Washington and Village Streets will give definition to the center of the village and support Penacook as a regional destination. Penacook's location at the Boscawen border enhances its significance as a regional service center. Encourage the location of a convenience store in this area to promote a walkable village.

Penacook Elementary School is slated to move to a new site south of the village center. This existing school site should be rehabilitated for mixed-income housing. [(b) on map]

Residential growth allocated to Penacook by this Vision Plan should appeal to a mix of incomes, including highend housing and should contribute to the extension of the traditional street grid around the village center. Culdesacs, which are not part of the historic street pattern in the village, should be avoided. [(c) on map]

A possible pedestrian bridge at the outlet canal along the Contoocook River can connect a river trail to the village center.The boundary between Penacook and West Concord is unclear. Preserve the existing green buffer south of the center on Village Street to protect the integrity of the village and to prevent strip development on Fisherville Road from eradicating village boundaries. [(d) on map]

A new village center at recent development along Fisherville Road can help protect the integrity of Penacook and West Concord. This village center should have a new name and is an ideal location for a new grocery store. This commercial area is the primary service area for both Penacook and West Concord. Currently, there are approximately 4,000 residents between the two villages. With projected growth of another 1,000 households by 2020, this area could support a major supermarket, which requires approximately 4,800 "rooftops" in the surrounding trade area. [(e) on map]

Fisherville Road can best serve residents by being a three-lane road with pedestrian crossings and a bike lane. The construction of two ramps at Exit 16-1/2 (southbound on and northbound off) would remove 8,000 vehicles each day from Fisherville Road. However, these new ramps would put an additional 9,000 cars on Sewalls Falls Road and 2,900 cars on Manor Road each day. The impacts of these transportation improvements must be studied more closely. [(f) on map]

High-end housing could be an appropriate land use in this area.

Pedestrian pathways along existing roads should be clearly defined for access to the river and a future "rails to trails" path. Streetscape improvements to Penacook Street, a much-used connector between Merrimack Street and Abbott Road, can calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety.

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