Katherine Gemmecke / March 7, 2023
Over the last several years in this annual publication, we’ve highlighted up-and-coming development projects in the Seacoast. Since our last in-depth update for Portsmouth in our 2019 Market Outlook, we thought it was time to circle back and take a look at active developments in the downtown area today. Interestingly, some of these projects have been in the works since as early as 2018, while others are newly underway.
We are providing a snapshot of six projects and where they are in the development process. The majority of these developments are focused on housing with a mixed-use/commercial component.
This proposed development located along Maplewood Avenue, as you enter the downtown sector, will consist of a fivestory, 124-room hotel, and a four-story, mixed-use building with ground level commercial spaces and 32 market-rate apartments. This project was proposed in late 2020 and is still in the planning stage. The proposed development will take the place of three existing buildings located on Maplewood Avenue and Raynes Avenue. The site plan has been approved, but the developer is currently seeking a conditional use permit and a wetland conditional use permit. The project received approval at the Historic District Commission meeting on January 5, 2023. The Planning Board has granted a rehearing for the project to vote on the site plan approval for the project.
This proposed development entails the demolition of an existing commercial building and construction of a five-story, mixed-use development which includes 48 residential units on the top four floors and commercial units on the ground level. The proposed project is located directly behind the AC Hotel. The proposed development received Planning Board approval in its October 25, 2022, meeting. Although initially well received, the project has met opposition from local residents, who contend that the Planning Board inappropriately granted approval of the site plan and Conditional Use Permit (CUP) pertaining to the wetland buffer. The group has since filed a petition for a rehearing which was denied in the December 20, 2022, meeting.
This is a proposed three building development which is set to contain 72 residential condos, commercial space, 44 market rate apartments, and planned parking to accommodate the development. Building 1 will feature a four-story office building located on the corner of Deer Street and Maplewood Avenue. Building 2 will feature a five-story, mixed use residential building with 56 upper-floor residential units. The building will also feature an underground parking garage and first floor commercial space. Building 3 will be a five-story, mixed-use residential building located on Russell Street with first floor commercial space and 24 residential units on the upper floors. This planned development is located in the current Sheraton Hotel surface parking lot. The developers have stated their focus and intent are to better connect where the “old city and the new city” meet. In addition, the project features pockets of community space and walkable areas throughout the property. The proposed development should receive all approvals by the first quarter of 2023. It has received approval from the Historic District Commission and awaits Planning Board approval. It’s likely the project will be developed in stages, although demand could dictate otherwise.
161 Deer Street is a proposed mixed-use development with first floor commercial space and 19 market-rate apartments spread between three floors with a top floor penthouse. The first step in the development will be to demolish the existing one-story building to make way for the development. The site will include solar panels on the roof, electric car chargers and 29 parking spaces within an underground parking garage for both the residents and commercial tenants. There will also be a community space which includes a pocket park. The development’s design was inspired by the North End’s long history relating to the railroad. In July of this year, the developer received approval from the Historic District Commission and now has received a unanimous approval from the Planning Board. The construction completion date is estimated to be fall of 2024.
This project, more notability known as the McIntyre building, is a development being proposed to contain commercial, retail, residential and public space that will complement and enhance downtown Portsmouth. The developers hope to attract retail tenants with a focus on breweries, fitness centers, restaurants, and retailers. This project has been mired in controversy and litigation since 2018, regarding the disparity between the initial development design, and The Community Plan, which includes the public’s input. The developers sued the City and received a $2 million settlement for expenses incurred on the redevelopment plan. However, this project is back on track, with the developers and the city working in collaboration on the final design.
The 105 Bartlett Street proposed development is currently the home to Great Rhythm Brewing, which will relocate to accommodate this approved 152-unit apartment development along North Mill Pond. The development is planned to include a one-half acre public park accompanied by a three-quarter mile long trail and greenway that would connect to downtown Portsmouth. The Planning Board approved the development in April of 2021, but the project has been challenged by residents based on zoning and wetland concerns. The project is currently waiting for a hearing date with the New Hampshire Supreme Court. 6 In closing, these proposed development projects will continue to transform the landscape of downtown Portsmouth over the next several years. However, it is important to remember that these changes come with a certain degree of controversy and potential delays. As such, developers should be prepared to navigate the emotionally charged atmosphere and delays that may arise.
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