August 6, 2020
The long-awaited and much anticipated opening of the Bridge Street Lot in its Cinderella transformation into a restaurant and performance art space for the benefit of Portsmouth businesses struggling to survive the pandemic has arrived. With the ink on all the inspections and required paperwork in hand, the nonprofit ServiceCU @ PopUp NH joined Mayor Rick Becksted, City Manager Karen Conard, representatives from the City’s DPW, Health, Building Inspection, Fire, Police and other Departments, and members of the Citizen Response Task Force to cut the ribbon.
The new PopUp NH venue will open under strict physical-distancing and other health precautions to limit the size and interaction of attendees. The first event planned for the space is a fashion show on Saturday, with food available from Black Trumpet and the debut of the beer collaborative.
The idea for such a space started forming in May at about the same time the Mayor and City Council were finalizing the idea for the Citizen Response Task Force. One of the first actions of the Task Force was to form a subcommittee to explore the idea of offering food and live music on the top floor of the Foundry Place Garage. When logistics made it difficult to realize that vision, the Subcommittee and the advocates for a PopUp concept including North Sturtevant, JSA, Inc. architect and PopUp NH Board member who volunteered to draw up the plans, switched to migrating the idea to the alternative the City DPW suggested: the Bridge Street parking lot.
In just seven weeks, the Subcommittee worked with the City to secure the site and all necessary permits and to build sheds for the restaurants and a stage. So far, the City has paid about $45,000 directly to the suppliers of the generators, fencing, porta-potties (including a cleaning and maintenance plan for the duration of the rentals) and to create the water/sewer/wastewater infrastructure to serve the Bridge Street Lot popup. No City monies have gone, or can go, to any of the project collaborators. The plan is that the City will use Federal CARES Act funds for the expenses, so spending is strictly limited in accordance with what FEMA will reimburse under the CARES Act. The rest of the City Council-designated funds remain in reserve for future City projects related to sustaining Portsmouth businesses as the impact of the pandemic is felt.
After having to interrupt the last stages of construction and installation to secure the site for the transit of Tropical Storm Isaias, the team was ready for a pause to celebrate the accomplishment with an official ribbon cutting by Mayor Rick Becksted who, with his father, volunteered to build the performance stage.
“This is a great day,” said the Mayor. “Portsmouth IS Clipper Strong. We pitch in to help each other and to keep everyone safe while we make sure our businesses have a chance to survive. I congratulate everyone involved in making this idea a reality and hope everyone has a chance to come down and enjoy it while staying safe.”
Kathleen Cavalaro, a volunteer who championed the PopUp, said “We are incredibly grateful to the small army of volunteers it took to make this project come to life. Having a safe space to gather outdoors so we can enjoy the arts is important for a community and we can’t thank the city staff enough for their efforts.”
Task Force representative for the arts/nonprofit community, Portsmouth Music and Arts Center CEO and Bridge Street Subcommittee Chair Russ Grazier, Jr. said, "As a part of the Citizen's Response Task Force, I am incredibly proud of the way the community has come together to make this project a reality. The PopUp is designed to help Portsmouth businesses and arts organizations, but it is not a one-stop solution. I hope the outpouring of community support for all of our arts organizations will continue, not just through the PopUp, but through continued direct support of each and every organization, which is needed now more than ever."
“This has been such an amazing community undertaking, we can’t wait to share it” said Dagan Migirditch of Camp Sipabrew, the collaboration between Liar Bench and Stoneface that will be featuring all the Portsmouth breweries as well as exclusive collaborative beers available only at PopUp NH.
Wendy Beswick, VP of Marketing at Service Credit Union, title sponsor for ServiceCU @ PopUp NH commented, “Service Credit Union has deep roots in Portsmouth, and we are proud to support an initiative that is helping many local businesses at once during these challenging times. It’s been powerful to see the project come to life, and we look forward to watching it grow over the next few months. As a member owned financial institution, we take pride in giving back to the communities in which we serve. This project encompasses much of what Service CU is all about, community and being there when needed most.”
“The opening of PopUp NH is just fantastic,” said City Manager Karen Conard. “I’ve been so impressed by the ‘can do’ spirit Portsmouth has sustained during the pandemic, and making this project a reality is the embodiment of all that good work. So many people – including City staff – were and continue to be so willing to do whatever it takes to help our restaurants, shops, performing arts and nonprofits survive. The Citizen Response Task Force and their legions of volunteers take advantage of each other’s strengths, come up with new ideas in the face of challenges, and have created a place Portsmouth can enjoy, with precautions and restrictions in place, while we continue to deal with the pandemic. We are all in this together; and what the Bridge Street team has done with PopUpNH is the best example I can think of to demonstrate just how passionate and engaged we are in keeping Portsmouth whole.”
Service CU @ PopUp NH has hired Tristan Law as its general manager. For more information about the events planned for the season, visit PopUpNH.org