Imagine being able to see a drawing come to life right in front of your eyes. Well, on September 19 get ready to Re-Think Marlboro Street in Keene and see the city’s rezoning blueprints transform into reality for one day.

For one day Keene residents will be able to experience improvements the city hopes to do in the near future. According to City of Keene Planner Michele Chalice, a group called Healthy Monadnock 2020 [a community engagement initiative designed to sustain a positive culture of health throughout Cheshire County and the Monadnock region] recently received some funding that allows the Southwest Region Planning Commission to make a series of safe routes to schools and the improvements shown at  Re-Think Marlboro St.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity for citizens to see what the city’s recommendations are on the ground, in the street and in bold living color,” Chalice said.

Chalice said the city has plans for three distinct areas of Marlboro street, the first section, closest to Main Street, next to the post office will have a dedicated bike lane separated from auto traffic, more shade trees and street furniture (benches, etc.)

The second area further up the road towards the center of Marlboro Street will have dedicated crosswalks with bulb outs [curved curb extensions], so that citizens can step out to view traffic without being in the traffic.

The second area will also include more planting areas that move out from the sidewalk into the street to decrease lane width so traffic slows down.

The third area closer to Optical Avenue where the police station and public works buildings are will have a bike lane continue all the way to the end so that people can bike safely down the whole street.

Along with the recommendations from the city, Planning Technician for the Southwest Region Planning Commission Mari Brunner said the event will include much more.

“There will be pop up bike lanes, temporary bus stops, parklets (people take an on-street parking space and feed the meter

Kendall Pope/ Managing Executive Editor

Kendall Pope/ Managing Executive Editor

continuously and turn the space into a place to sit and rest or do other activities), more outdoor seating, a little mini golf course  all in the space of one parking space… There will also be  yoga on the lawn, a bike repair station, a bike art exhibition, bike tours to bicycle benefit businesses ( businesses that encourage bicycling and learn how to bike to their shops), the city express bus will also be  running a mini route to farmers market and they’ll do a demonstration about how to load your bike to front of bus,” Brunner said.

She continued, “Hopefully more people  get on the bus and see what’s it like. It’s a  good way to show them what transit could look like on Marlboro Street  because right now it doesn’t have any transit on it and has been identified as a good place to have transit in the future.”

Currently Marlboro Street is an entryway to the city off a main highway which means traffic tends to speed coming down the road.

According to Brunner the road is more than 50 feet wide shoulder to shoulder not including right of way, which makes it even wider. Brunner said the travel lane is around 17 feet wide while the average is between 10 and 12 feet,  so cars in that section go really fast and there aren’t a lot of crossing opportunities.

“From our perspective we thought Marlboro Street would be a really good place to show a complete street transformation to slow traffic down and show how this could be a really safe, walkable, bikeable area,” Brunner said.

Brunner continued and said that she has read many studies of research that show that business  and people tend to want to live and be located in  areas that have alternative transportation to driving.

“These areas tend to have higher property value, especially small retail shops will get more business because people will walk up the street and stop into shops or people will bike to their business,” Bruner said. She explained, “The younger generations consistently show that they want to live in areas that have alternatives to  the automobile and so they prefer to live in downtown walkable centers or village centers, and urban areas where they option of taking the bus, the train, riding a bike,  so that’s a big trend that we’re seeing.”

Owner of Penuches Bar Todd Tousley agreed that making Marlboro Street more accessible would be better for his business.

Tousley has been the owner for 25 years and said he is excited about the project because it would modernize Marlboro Street and make it more like Main Street.

“Back in the day when I first bought Penuches we didn’t really have much competition so we were really doing a killer business. This place [Penuches] used to be the neighborhood bar back in like 1951, back then they had neighborhood store, neighborhood butcher kind of thing. Now modern times you have bar strips, so the modern bars in Keene are downtown and you know we’re over on a side street around the corner so we’re not doing as much business as we used to. So this kind of  thing is exciting to me for the future  because it would modernize the street and make it like Main Street. You know how nice Main Street is with the trees, the flowers, and the walkways and Marlboro Street is kind of blah. So I think it would be a much more family friendly neighborhood place for people to hang out and go,” Tousley said.

Along with business properties increasing in value, housing properties would increase too. Right now Marlboro Street is home to a number of low income housing and unused properties.

“Historically and still to this day areas with low income people tend to be neglected in terms of creating a nice safe walkable areas and that has such an impact on them  because they’re the people that need them the most .They’re the people who are less likely to afford to fix a car or buy a new car when they’re old one breaks down or even have a car in the first place and so the fact that this area doesn’t have a transportation service means that making it walkable and bikeable is really important so they can feel safe going to school, going to work and going downtown to shop or walking to the bus stop,” Brunner said.

As for what the possibilities are for new businesses moving to Marlboro Street Chalice said that for now those are unknown but could have some exciting options.

“We have recently been able to release a map of the East side development Corridor meeting that happened in February. Their residents had a brainstorming session about how the under-utilized buildings along the Beaver Brook Corridor could be used  and so in concert with those ideas this map will be going out to those building owners of the under-utilized buildings. So it’s extremely exciting time on the East side. So on the 19th at Re-Think Marlboro Street the same questions will be asked and those answers will be given to Marlboro Street property owners along with a summarization of what Keene residents want to see there,” Chalice said.

The Re-Think Marlboro Street event takes place on September 19, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Kendall can be contacted at

Share and Enjoy !