Portsmouth

goody

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I completely agree. I think once (and despite the attempts of the current NH legislator, it will be happening) commuter rail is established along the Capitol Corridor connecting Concord, Manchester and Nashua with Boston, an extension of the Newburyport commuter rail line to Portsmouth would make a lot of sense and be a likely second line in the state. The distance between Newburyport and Portsmouth is considerably less than Concord and Lowell, and it's a pretty straight shot. I could be totally wrong about this, but I believe the T or the state of New Hampshire already have access to or ownership of the tracks there. The Downeaster would be trickier, given that it would need to be either a spur or require re-routing and possibly losing service in other towns. Obviously, the Downeaster is more comfortable and more appealing for tourists, but the commuter rail would run more frequently, and I think would serve residents and visitors very well.
I can only hope. Not sure how feasible the project is, though it seems easy. The tracks go through the Seabrook Power Stations property, and then past some very wealthy backyards. Mega NIMBYism and lack of political support would make it a difficult. Specially given the great success of CJ Trailways service.
 

bdurden

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I like this project but...why must all New England cities insist upon the generic brick facade? Mid-Atlantic and Southern rows do not shy away from color.
 

FrankLloydMike

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I agree that the Martingdale/Bow Street condos are mostly good urbanistically--they're an example of the sort of mixed-use buildings that make Portsmouth so enjoyable, and they fill gaps in the street wall there. I really feel, though, they that are not a very good example of well-done historically influenced architecture, a much better example of which is the new block along Congress Street in Market Square. My stepfather, who works around the corner from Bow Street, told me that the Martingdale project was originally going to incorporate the two existing (and rather handsome) buildings on the site, but that the developer was later able to demolish them due to the expense of restoration or something along those lines. I really think a casual observer can tell the difference between the richness of those buildings (seen here on Google street view) and the flat, pastiche nature of the buildings mimicking them on the site now. Portsmouth has some very beautiful old buildings, and taken together they make a wonderful and unusually well-preserved landscape, but understanding that history continues and guiding contemporary design so that it compliments historic structures would lead to a richer, more legible and real environment, in my opinion. Portsmouth can either do a better job of preserving existing buildings and allowing complimentary modern structures, or it can continue to permit these sort of Disney sets to replace actually historic buildings.
 
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Patrick

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I think these are all good thoughts, and good points. I think it is also important to remember that the criticisms are to be taken in light of the general rule that new urban development is better than infill parcels, even if it is not perfect, and from the tone of the comments, it seems like everyone realizes this.

I agree with LrFox that the project shown in the pics above is one of the best I've seen in a while, and certainly better than anything recently built in Portland. Yet I also agree that the Congress Street (Portsmouth) project is way better. In fact, that is probably the best infill project I have ever seen. It really looks like a place to visit, as opposed to new infill in Portland, which although urban is just generic.

The one major criticism I have of the infill shown in the pics above is that the first floor retail fenestration is just too generic and too out of character with the rest of the structure. It seems like buildings with those large glass plates on the first stories never get occupied (Portland has a half dozen buildings like this. People don't want to work or sell anything there).

Here are some examples of this sort of style:








Who thinks this is inviting? No wonder these places are all largely vacant. Other than this small complaint, though (it looks like the Portsmouth project incorporated some of this careless design in its first story), the project(s) look outstanding. They could always be improved, sure, but outstanding nonetheless.
 
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Patrick

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Stopped by Portsmouth today to check out the new buildings...looked sweet, but more importantly, the City was vibrant (I'd even say more vibrant than Portland's Old Port, with what looked like more shops). Very urban. I know the city is smaller than Portland, but it looks to have more downtown shopping.
 

FrankLloydMike

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The Union Leader is reporting today on complaints by some South End residents about the recently installed "graffiti art" murals throughout downtown Portsmouth. Apparently, the murals were done as part of an ambitious exhibit by the Portsmouth Museum of Art, which runs through September, at which point it is up to the building owners whether to keep or remove the art. Personally, I really hope that at least some of it is kept. I'm planning to check them out in person when in town later this week, and while I'm skeptical of some "graffiti art," I think contemporary murals (as well as buildings) give a place a sense of vitality and playfulness that nicely counters how varnished much of Portsmouth is becoming.

I love these two quotes from Cathy Sununu, director of the Portsmouth Museum of Art:

?I'm not denying that this city is built around history; it absolutely is,? she said. ?But I don't think it was the intention of those who built everything, for everything to be frozen in time.?
?We've really tried to present contemporary work in the context of a historical community, but in the end we are all here now, in the present, in the 21st century,? she said.
 

Corey

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I agree, I think the murals look pretty good. I haven't seen them person but recall seeing a few on The Daily Portsmouth photo blog. I would love to see some interesting non-permanent outdoor art like this around Portland.
 

goody

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Some more photos from yesterday. Went for an evening walk, and went up to the top of the parking garage to see what the view had.



We have topped out it seems



Nice little alley of sorts



This development really is doing great things for this part of town, a few small misses but again I think with some time these are going to be perfect. Pretty good view of the growing street wall.



New building on Islington



New building planned for the waterfront. Not sure that their timing is good if the bridge is going to be replaced who is going to want to site through construction in their new million dollar condo? I am not a big fan of the design and I think the building is only three units which is silly.

As for the urban art. I am loving it. Here is a side view of that building



Same theme on the trailer used for the play in Prescott.



A different one on state street.


Speaking of state street its beautiful now that have redone it the sidewalks and plants are great!

For those who haven't seen here are two new buildings finished last year alone state which add to its improvements.

 
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Patrick

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Portsmouth is really a remarkable city. In terms of a place to visit for the day, I think it would be as enjoyable as Portland, and more enjoyable than Burlington (I deliberately am leaving off Manchester because it is a different "sort" of city, i.e., not the kind that attracts the day trip tourists with its hippy artist vibe and waterfront atttractions like the other three, but please correct me if I am mistaken). One thing I don't understand is, how is all of this development going on in the midst of this building economy? Are these projects spec? Or are they occupied? Either way, I don't really care because they are AMAZING for the city, really, and truly do complete the street wall in many ways.

I thought Portland did a good job with infill, but Portsmouth really has taken this idea and perfected it. The untrained eye can't tell which buildings have been there for hundreds of years and which are new construction. I think that is really cool. Portland has a nice little section, the Old Port, which is quaint and the type of "place" that people enjoy being in, but it isn't growing. Sure, its fringes are growing, but it is not "it." The new growth is large scale super block hotels and offices etc. Cool from a general economic development perspective, but in terms of the actual place that started the attraction and livability of the area, it is pretty much frozen in its original (or even reduced) footprint. Portsmouth's unique character seems to be expanding, and I think that is fascinating. If all growth in the seacoast was captured in building form that resembled historic Portsmouth, and all occurred downtown, it would be the size of Back Bay.

Of course, not everyone things that older buildings should be replicated because often times it looks as if they are being mocked due to poor replication architecture, and I agree to an extent, but Portsmouth is really pulling this off quite nicely. In Portland, they build a hotel in the old port which is not really that bad but essentially amounts to a typical sized hotel atop a parking garage with low fenestration and low accessibility and then there are some colonial architectural elements on the roofline. One city planner refers to it as "fauxlonial." In portsmouth with a few exceptions everything looks like it is in step with traditional architecture. The place really is great to walk around and look at. I love the eating right on the water, too, something Portland does not have and will not allow.

Really, for a city of Portsmouth's size (or any size actually) the place is really astonishingly well designed and planned. I don't like that one mural, but I think it is more a product of not liking the art rather than not liking urban murals. The other mural, of the guy and the girl sitting down is quite neat. Of course, even though I don't like the first mural, though, that doesn't mean it detracts from the city, still an overall great place. In portland we have public graffitti murals, but they look like crap and are a bit too gangsta. That is the difference, I suppose, between a very urban town (portsmouth) and a small "city" (portland). I could be wrong, but that's how I see it. Portland is almost in the middle of a spectrum formed with manchester and portsmouth as its two poles....one gritty industrial capitalist growing economy, the other quaint seaside resort town.

Brings me to my next question....what is portsmouth's economy like? is it mostly retirees and a few funky start ups? Or are there actually places to work there (not including the surrounding seacoast)? It seems like the corporate growth takes place outside the town in places like Dover (which is bigger actually but you'd never know it) instead of intown, which is kind of ironic in that a very urban place is actually pushing growth outside its boundaries. Anyone care to elaborate?
 

FrankLloydMike

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Some sad news: as of a week ago, the iconic Memorial Bridge between downtown Portsmouth and Kittery has been permanently closed to vehicular traffic. It is still open to pedestrians and bicyclists for the time being.

This news has been a long time coming as the bridge has been in serious need of repair for some time. Plans are in the works for a replacement, but the expectation was that the current bridge would remain open for another year.

While I am normally not in favor of mimicking old or existing architecture, I think the Memorial Bridge is an exception. Like the much more famous Campanile in Venus, Memorial Bridge should be replaced by a reasonable facsimile. It is simply too much a part of the skyline and fabric of the city, a design based on it will be a direct replacement not an imitation elsewhere, and its demise is due almost entirely to neglect and deferred maintenance by the states. The city of Portsmouth deserves to retain its iconic backdrop.

Fortunately, that is what planners have in mind: the bridge will be replaced with a very similar design, albeit one widened to accommodate bike lanes and with structural improvements to extend its longevity.


Rendering of Memorial Bridge replacement
 

BostonUrbEx

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According to the website, the other bridge (carrying Rt 1 Bypass and the railroad tracks to the Naval base) is under restrictions and is in a poor state as well.
 

Ron Newman

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Does the entire bridge need to be replaced, or just the lift span part?
 

Corey

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I'm glad they will be using a similar design for the new structure. Bridges don't last forever, but it sounds like they could have taken better care of this one and gotten a few more years out of it. But I suppose it would need to be replaced eventually either way, and looking at Google maps it seems like the only way to build a new bridge here is to remove the old one completely. I look forward to seeing the new one take shape.
 

goody

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Some Portsmouth Updates. Portwalk's final phase is moving forward. A little sooner then I would have thought but it is good to hear. The city even managed to make sure there was more retail frontage on the first floor (sacrificing parking spaces--oh my!).

This part of the development can be seen as the right 'two' buildings in this photo-




One end



The other



Just found out about this bad boy too--its great to be getting more office space and mix use downtown but I am not at all crazy about the design, looks like it belongs on Pease.

Site is here

http://maps.google.com/maps?oe=utf-...uth,+NH&fb=1&gl=us&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl






There is also a two story addition being adding 85 Congress street, the building with Bull-moose Music). It is nearly done, though I can't find a rendering, its fairly large doubling the building's height.

There is also a development which has broken ground at the traffic circle, far more sprawlly then anything but might be of interest. It is mixed use though I am not sure what that entails in detail.



Lastly but not least, the renderings for the new bridge have been released. No one is impressed. I would like to see something more orginal looking then this--and I really want it to be some color other then green--blue, yellow, or red perhaps?

 
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FrankLloydMike

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The bridge looks terrible. Usually, I'm not in favor of replicating existing structures, but I think the new bridge either needs to be a much more faithful recreation of the graceful original, or something inventive and entirely new. Memorial Bridge is unusually prominent in the Portsmouth skyline, and deserves much more respect than what has been proposed.
 

Ron Newman

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What happened to making the new bridge a replica of the current one?
 

FrankLloydMike

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What happened to making the new bridge a replica of the current one?
Value engineering. Or Tea Partiers leading the state governments in Maine and New Hampshire. I don't mean to inject politics, but this is a good example of the consequences that elections have in terms of the built environment and infrastructure. As a society, we should care enough about our public places to invest in them and make them enjoyable.
 

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