DERRY — Downtown economic development continues to be a major area of interest and concern for the Town Council.
Most recently, the council has faced the decision of what should be done with a parcel of town-owned property between Central Street and Sawyer Court.
The initial plan was to purchase several pieces of property in the area to package with existing town-owned property, then put out a request for proposals for the private redevelopment of the lot.
Although the council approved the purchase of a multi-family building at 8 Central St. last year, the council voted down the purchase of a larger eight-unit building on Sawyer Court.
Councilor Tom Cardon said he has been looking at past downtown economic development proposals to help determine what the town could do with the land it does own in the area.
“One of the ideas was for a skate park,” said Cardon. “The thought was a good idea, but there would be a limited population using it.”
A better idea for the nearly two acres owned by the town would be to build a park that everyone in town could use, said Cardon.
“The land is adjacent to the bike path and everyone could use it,” said Cardon. “It would bring some people into the downtown.”
Cardon said he knows the biggest roadblock to the park would be the cost. He said the town could look into using some of the money that was earmarked for the Sawyer Court property purchase and apply for grants.
“There has got to be grant money out there for parks for depressed downtowns,” he said. “I think that is something that should be looked into.”
In the shorter term, Cardon said the town should look at cleaning up the property near Abbott Court as well as looking at ways to clean up other downtown properties.
Councilor Brad Benson said the park proposal was one of several conceptual ideas brought up in the past for the development of town-owned property downtown. He said the council should hold a workshop meeting to discuss that idea as well as other possible downtown economic development ideas.
“It was just a conceptual idea to get people talking and discussing things,” Benson said of the park plan. “It certainly did open up an interesting dialogue.”
However, Councilor Al Dimmock said the town should not be in the real estate business and should sell the property it owns to a private developer.
“The town should get a list of all the property it owns and get out of the real estate business,” he said.
Benson said the major discussion by the council over the past year has been to package the properties near Abbott Court and put out a request for private development.
“We wanted to acquire other properties to bundle it together so there was proper access,” said Benson. “That has changed because we didn’t buy the one property but bought the other one. We are just looking for direction to put an RFP together and put it out on the street.”