March 6, 2018
The City of Portsmouth kicked off the second stage of the McIntyre public input process Monday evening, February 26th, with two panel discussions focused on public realm, urban design, and historic preservation.
The McIntyre Blue Ribbon Steering Committee hosted the meeting, the first of two evenings featuring panel discussions that dive into topics citizens have raised relating to the future of the Thomas J. McIntyre Federal Building and property.
“The first panel discussions showcased Portsmouth citizenry at its best. The conversation was incredibly engaging, people asked great questions, our local experts were thought-provoking, and we had the opportunity to hear a variety of opinions about the future of the McIntyre building,” said City Councilor Chris Dwyer. “One of the things that’s been most gratifying about this process is to hear from people how their perspectives are changing and evolving as a result of these public meetings. We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us with this project, and it’s great to see so many people staying engaged.”
Panelists and the audience discussed a variety of topics, including ways to motivate residents to want to spend time in the McIntyre Project’s public spaces. Panelists also discussed how to embrace Bow Street and the property’s grade changes and create an inviting street-level design, while also taking advantage of dramatic 360-degree rooftop views of the river and City. Participants emphasized the need for connectivity with the existing landscape and enhancements to the walkability of downtown. They emphasized building on what makes Portsmouth unique: the combination of a vibrant arts community, a rich historic fabric, and an active waterfront.
Residents expressed their desire for a public space that can serve residents year-round. Ideas included potential small-scale retail, pop-up installations, a local food market, and entertainment spaces. Audience members and panelists agreed that the space should be flexible—a place to experiment with entrepreneurial ideas.
“As a development team, we’ve had the opportunity to build a lot of projects over the years, but the McIntyre Project is unique because we get the chance to listen and participate in this public input process,” said Michael Kane from the Redgate/Kane development team. “The input and feedback we’re receiving from the community is thoughtful, insightful and creative. There’s no doubt this collaborative process will positively inspire the design.”
Panelists also discussed a variety of issues relating to design and historic preservation. The discussion focused on what the McIntyre Project should achieve from a design perspective and what elements must be preserved, and how new construction should be compatible with its surroundings.
During the meeting, Deputy City Manager Nancy Colbert Puff highlighted how the City continues to communicate closely with the National Park Service to ask questions and receive feedback. Addressing the questions of residents, Ms. Puff explained that the National Park Service has been extremely responsive to the City, and has offered their assistance during this pre-application phase.
“It’s important for members of the community to know that we are listening,” said Steve Perdue of the development team. “This project is very much still a fluid process, and input from members of the community will shape how we move forward with our design at the McIntyre site.”
The next stage two meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 6th at 6:30 PM in the City Council Chambers. Topics of discussion will be elements of a public-private partnership, and transportation and parking.