5/14/2021 | community connections
For too long, the land behind Capitol Shopping Center in Concord, New Hampshire, was in dire need of a restoration cleanup. More than 70,000 square yards of trash and debris had accumulated along the Storrs Street railroad tracks next to the center. More than just an eyesore, the area had become unsafe for the homeless individuals who decamped there—due to drug use, crime, and even fires—as well as for the patrons and tenants of the shopping center. Property manager Kathie Slowe is behind the months-long journey that led to a remarkable, community-wide revitalization of the area on April 12-15.
A Person with a Plan
While there have always been problems on Storrs Street, during the summer of 2020 Kathie saw a significant increase in the homeless population and was fielding escalating complaints from tenants and customers related to drug use, break-ins, and harassment of customers.
Kathie met regularly with tenants at the property and while Brixmor was not technically responsible for any of the problems along the railroad track, its tenants were bearing the brunt of the chaos.
Kathie began reaching out to Pan Am Railways, the City of Concord, and anyone who would listen, but she quickly hit roadblocks. Pan Am felt the issue was criminal trespassing and illegal dumping, which required the City to act. The City believed the tracks were private property and it was up to the railroad to resolve the problems.
"It was not Brixmor’s land and technically not our problem,” says Kathie. “Everyone wanted to work on it, but no one wanted to take the lead. (So) I thought, 'OK, we'll take the lead.'"
A Cleanup Consensus
Officer Rob Murphy of Pan Am suggested Kathie organize a round table discussion with all parties, so they could come to an agreement on what should be done and determine how everyone could play a role. In November of 2020, with the pandemic at a fever pitch, Kathie orchestrated a Zoom call with representatives from Brixmor’s tenants, the community, the railroad, homeless outreach groups, City police, state police, and City government. At that meeting, stakeholders discussed their concerns and spoke to the needs of their individual constituents—from shopping mall customers to the homeless population to area residents.
Kathie then followed this virtual round table with a second planning meeting. They decided that the cleanup work itself would not commence until April 2021, which would give the outreach groups time to work with the residents to find safe and suitable alternate housing. Meanwhile, Kathie began to secure the equipment and resources needed to make the cleanup a success.
During the winter, monthly meetings were held to discuss the status of resources and progress with the residents. Participants were bonding with each other and cohering around the shared mission. More collaborators joined the effort making this truly a community-wide project.
As April drew closer, Brixmor’s marketing team began to promote the event and recruit volunteers and support from the community. A reporter from the Concord Patch helped spread the word that volunteers would be needed for the April clean-up, and the project was promoted by a local radio station. The project was even selected by D’Angelo’s (a local sandwich chain) for their “Everyday Hero’s” program, and they volunteered to feed the crew.
A Public/Private Success Story
More than 50 volunteers and 23 organizations joined together to clear out the accumulated trash and debris covering more than 70,000 square yards of land. Brixmor made April 12–15 community service days for staff, and our team was thrilled to play a role in the cleanup. Over the course of three days, dozens of volunteers bagged trash and moved brush that was then hauled away by City trucks. Local businesses fed the crew. On the last day, landscapers clear cut the area.
The results are fantastic, and the land is vastly improved, proving that with visionary leadership (thank you, Kathie!) and the power of community, anything is possible.
We thank the many people and organizations who made the effort a success, including:
• Community Action Program
• Concord Coalition to End Homelessness
• New Hampshire Harm Reduction Coalition
• Concord Police Department
• Merrimack County Diversion Center
• Pan Am Railways
• NYM Group of MA
• Outside Unlimited
• Advantage Utilities LLC
• Capitol Shopping Center & shopping center owner Brixmor Property Group
• Jack Mitchell Paving & Sealcoating
• Market Basket
• Sal’s Pizza
• JOANN Fabrics & Crafts
• Constantly Pizza
• D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches
• Domino’s Pizza
• Papa John’s Pizza
• C&S Signs
• New Hampshire Print & Mail