Market Square Master Plan

 Take the Market Square Master Plan Survey

The Market Square Master Plan initiative is designed to explore and document proposed changes for Market Square with vigorous community input, design consultants, and an advisory group for a plan that will inform the upcoming Citywide Master Plan. The planning concepts derived from this effort will form a foundation for the design of needed infrastructure upgrades and enhancements to Market Square. It is anticipated that the planning process will take all of calendar year 2024. 


April 2024




March 2024

Project kickoff meeting with City staff and Beta Group with tour of the project area.     

January 2024

The City selected Beta Group as the consultants on the project.

December 2023

City staff conducted consultant interviews in response to the Market Square Master Plan RFP.

November 2023

RFP Deadline for firms wishing to bid on the Market Square Master Plan.

October 2023

RFP posted. Held a mandatory pre-bid informational meeting.


About Market Square - A (Far Too) Brief History


In November of 2019 the City issued an RFQ to study Market Square; but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to expand the focus of the project, the project was never contracted. The current effort expands the project focus to incorporate additional corridors, evaluating pedestrian access, outdoor dining on public streets and sidewalks, and accessibility. 

Recognized as one of the “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Market Square is part of the Portsmouth Downtown Historic District. First paved in 1762, the Square and three streets originating from it — Market Street, Pleasant Street, and Congress Street — have remained the hub of downtown commerce and community life in the 250 years since.

Portsmouth today is a vibrant regional destination for the arts, dining, and heritage tourism, but the city's economy hasn't always been so robust. Faced with declining industry during the 1950s and '60s, the City cleared portions of the downtown through urban renewal. Beginning in the 1970s, creative developers began rehabilitating historic commercial and industrial buildings on Market Street for conversion to a mix of residential, office and retail uses. A key step in Portsmouth's recovery efforts was the revitalization of Market Square beginning in 1978. Over the years, the City has taken meaningful planning steps and followed through with implementation through adoption of location ordinances that encouraged compatible development. Zoning regulations work to ensure the vitality of street-level businesses and to protect valuable historic properties including North Church, a beacon of Portsmouth visible from most city vantage points. 

Today Market Square is a busy intersection and a transportation nexus filled with pedestrians, bicyclists, buses, cars, mopeds, and motorcycles against a backdrop of architecturally distinctive buildings, each with its own history. Within this context, much of the public infrastructure above and below Market Square and intersecting streets (including utilities, sidewalks, roadways, parking structures, street trees, street furniture, and solid waste) is due for an upgrade and the City is ready to consider how other aspects and its publicly accessible spaces might be improved or altered consistent with historic preservation objectives, urban design principles, and the City’s Complete Street, Walk-Friendly, and Bike-Friendly policies. 

The first phase in Market Square Master Plan process, just launched, is to develop the plan for a shared public conceptual vision with preliminary cost projections. Future phases will include preliminary design plans and opinion of project costs leading to final design and preparation of construction documents. 

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