Exeter officials praise Lincoln Street corridor revamp plan
EXETER — An area of town that has not received much-needed attention for many years, town officials praised the proposed renewal of the Lincoln Street corridor at Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
What many have deemed the next “downtown” area of Exeter, Lincoln Street is home to a melting pot of entities, including Lincoln Street School, Arjay Hardware, Lexie’s Test Kitchen, Saint Vincent de Paul Community Assistance Center, the Amtrak Downeaster station and many residences, as well.
Last Town Meeting, voters approved $2.8 million for a revamp of the corridor, including sewer, drainage, roadwork, streetscape and pedestrian safety improvement. Before that, in 2016, the town invested $1.6 million in new public underground infrastructure.
Department of Public Works Assistant Engineer Jen Mates said two public hearings were held on the future of Lincoln Street, with many stakeholders and residents turning out to offer input on what they’d like to see in the area’s renewal.
“From there, we’ve taken all of that information and come up with what we think melts together all of the ideas we heard the best we can, while meeting the needs of as many interested parties as possible, while keeping our budget steady,” Mates said.
Highlights of the design include new sidewalks and crosswalks, a gateway plaza, greenery and reconfiguration of parking.
The town hired CMA Engineers for the design portion of the project. The intent is to put out a bid for construction within the next few months.
Phil Corbett of CMA Engineers said the objectives of the project are to develop a “complete streets” model, better accessibility and comfort for all users, prioritize safety, improve function and aesthetic, provide opportunities for business to flourish, create a gateway to Exeter from the Amtrak station, implement utility and drainage improvements and reduce the impacts of Lincoln Street runoff on wetlands and rivers.
The project is split into three regions: Residential, school and commercial, what Corbett called a “multi-faceted approach.”
The plan is to reconfigure current parking to parallel parking, as well as formalize parking on abutting Daniel Street, he said.
Perhaps a gem of the new design, a “beautiful public plaza” will greet train riders exiting the train station, said Jen Martel of Ironwood Design Group, also assisting on the project.
The raised plaza will have long wooden benches, greenery, and potentially solar lights.
“It looks great, I can’t wait,” said Selectwoman Kathy Corson.
Nearby Gill Street resident Denise Landis said she thought the design “looks absolutely beautiful.” She said she liked the idea of solar lights providing safety at night, but not adding light pollution.
Selectwoman Anne Surman said she was excited to see Lincoln Street “finally get the facelift it needs.”
“We’ve done a lot of great projects during my time on the select board but this one might be my favorite,” said Selectman Dan Chartrand. “I think this is going to make Lincoln Street pop and all of the disparate activities are going to mesh together better.”
Chartrand continued, “To add parking is a dream come true, while at the same time adding all of these great pedestrian amenities.”
The town is also discussing the possibility of municipal parking at the Lincoln Street School, where 44 additional spaces would be developed in the northern section of the school’s lot. At an Exeter Elementary School Board meeting last September, school officials appeared to be intrigued by the idea, while concerned with student safety and logistics.
By Hadley Barndollar
Posted Jan 29, 2018 at 9:16 PM Updated Jan 29, 2018 at 9:16 PM