Dec. 7 — To the editor:
It amazes me that a development the size of the McIntyre project hasn't been featured more by The Herald, or made more public by the Portsmouth City Council. If you view the half-hour Nov. 19 presentation to the council by Kane/Redgate development team selected by the city you'll notice that there are very few people present in the audience not affiliated with the developer. Here is a project that will affect the entire downtown area of Portsmouth for decades to come, and yet, there has been very little discussion about the massive buildout of this 2.1 acre parcel, its lack of public green space, public parking or the near impossibility of our post office remaining here. The scale of this project is just wrong.
If you look at the city website under "McIntyre Project," you'll see beautiful renderings of happy people enjoying this massive cluster of four four-story buildings crammed into a space where only one currently exists. (You'll notice that the city has removed the previous "bird's eye" view, which clearly showed the true density of this project.)
This monolithic assemblage would work just fine in Boston, San Francisco, Boulder or Philadelphia, but is truly out of place here in Portsmouth. The nine public work sessions held months ago clearly intended that (1) there be a significant public park that is not lined with paving stones or viewed between massive brick structures; (2) that public parking be made available (something which the current federal building does not allow) and (3) that the post office remain. In the floor plan, you'll see that "USPS" is indicated as a location for the post office, yet, due to the massive buildout proposed and the mitigation of asbestos mentioned, the post office will be required to move out for at least three years (and find a suitable 4000-5000 sq. ft. space in town?) and then, after reconstruction, willingly move back in at a proposed square ft. rate three times that of the current rate. Who in their right mind, as a business, would do that?
On the issue of parking: no public parking is available with this plan. The 77 residential units proposed will have their own parking. The 44 proposed retail spaces will have no parking for employees or customers. No other public parking is proposed. I guess that the developer's plan is for everyone to park in the new parking garage across town, or be shuttled to remote parking lots. Does this make sense? Doesn't Portsmouth already have a terrible parking problem? This will make it far, far worse, to say nothing of the traffic generated in these already crowded streets surrounding this area. I'm stunned that there hasn't been more of an outcry about this. The developer stated in the presentation that underground public parking is not feasible because they can't excavate under the existing McIntyre building. This may be true, but what about the large, currently unbuilt areas where the new buildings are to be located? Certainly Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia have underground parking beneath their buildings. Isn't this an extremely short-sighted vision?
As for a significant public park, we really don't have one here in Portsmouth—that isn't already being used intensively by theatrical/musical/entertainment venues like Prescott Park or Strawbery Banke. A green space here would be a meaningful addition to the well-being of Portsmouth's residents and visitors, especially combined with cafes and small food services.
My feeling is that the city's only impetus for this project is to create a dense tax base and collect lots of taxes, (perhaps to offset the loss of the Schiller plant?). There is no public benefit to this project other than a fiscal one. And it goes against most of the suggestions of all the citizen meeting input.
There will be a public hearing on the McIntyre project on Jan. 7. I urge everyone who is opposed to this plan to attend and/or write letters to the council voicing their opposition. Go to the city's website under "McIntyre Project" and see for yourself if this is what you think Portsmouth wants or needs. It's not too late. It is my understanding that the council has yet to enter into a legal agreement with the developer, but does plan to vote on this proposal on Jan. 22.
Please get informed and involved before it is too late.