June 15, 2006

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Concord Publisher's Note: Stay the course
By Dan Szczesny

Uh-oh.

The local media has been awash with stories recently warning of some economic trouble on the horizon for Concord. Both the housing market, which has boomed for the past five years, as well as local business development, appears to be on the decline.

Is the market going bust? Probably not. But these early indicators of a softening market is something to take seriously.

Concord’s been fortunate these past few years, in part because the Boston market has been humming along and carrying southern New Hampshire with it, but also due to some shrewd city planning that has positioned the state capital as an affordable alternative to the saturated Manchester and Nashua markets.

On the business development side, Concord has seen unprecedented growth in the last two years. In 2005, just four projects alone – Capital Commons, Concord Hospital expansion, Louden Road development and Lowe’s – accounted for nearly 500,000-square-feet of development. Add to those numbers renovations to a half dozen buildings or empty sites, and Concord had a bonny year to say the least.

Meanwhile, the housing market was perking along with a whole host of developers looking to create housing neighborhoods, the most recent being the Abbott Village development on North State Street. Certainly $500,000 condos are not starter homes, but a few developers have sacrificed some space in order to create a more village-like community, realizing that cheaply made cookie cutter homes do nothing to help a community.

At any rate, with all this cheery real estate news, is it any wonder that things have finally begun to slide a little. The thing to remember, though, is that it’s not that bad, and Concord is uniquely positioned to ride out any decline without much affect on the local economy.

For example, the assessed average value of a Concord home last year was $250,000. That has only decreased by about one percent, according to recent reports. Manchester and Nashua have seen only slight increases, so the difference is not that drastic.

Part of the problem is that Concord home sellers, along with the rest of the state, have enjoyed a vastly inflated market the last couple years. Now, as the market cools, folks are having a tough time selling their homes at those prices. One of two things must happen – either sellers need to lower their expectations to be more in tune with reasonable market prices, or they just sit on their property and wait to see if the market returns to previous highs. The latter appears to be what’s happening.

But that should not effect the city if it continues to carefully guide its business development and continues to keep the reigns on residential developers who simple want to turn a quick buck.

One way to keep ahead of the market would be to focus on downtown residential development. There are plenty of second, third and fourth floors in downtown that are sitting empty. A movie theatre downtown is exciting news, but people living downtown and using it, is even better for Concord’s future.


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