A Strategic Vision for the Future of Downtown Portsmouth

In response to recent development pressures, the community and civic leaders initiated a public process to assess the need and potential opportunities for achieving a better balance of commercial use and expanded open space on City-owned property in downtown Portsmouth.

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Working in collaboration with architects Touloukian Touloukian, Halvorson Design led and facilitated an urban design dialog with a mayoral-appointed committee charged with preparing a Strategic Plan and Long-Term Vision for the City-owned Bridge and Worth parking lots and the pedestrian-oriented Vaughan Mall, located in the heart of downtown Portsmouth. Our team engaged the committee to identify principles and priorities for parking, development and civic open space. 

The resulting vision prioritizes extending the urban fabric of Portsmouth to new development areas and identifies three complementary, yet different, flexible multi-use open spaces. These new public destinations are designed to provide a canvas for civic amenities and activities not currently available downtown. The plan also proposes strategically placed building and civic open space support structures focused on contributing year-round activity and vibrancy to the new open spaces. 

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Bridge Lot is envisioned as a verdant stepped lawn programmed by the city. A public shade structure at the top of the site visually frames the historic Discover Portsmouth Center façade, while a proposed two-story mixed-use building at the base enlivens the space with a cafe terrace. 

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Across Maplewood Avenue, the Worth Lot plaza becomes an ever-changing open space designed to host varying festivals and events. The space will be distinguished by tree promenades, new outdoor seating at the edges and reengaged adjacent perimeter restaurants with spill-out cafes to contribute to the urban dynamic. A subsurface parking garage below the Worth Lot is proposed to provide access to 90 parking spaces, vital to maintaining and encouraging commerce to adjacent businesses. 

Designed to activate and bring new life to Vaughan Mall and neighboring businesses, a new two-story restaurant and civic building is also being considered.

These improvements, designed to energize and revitalize downtown Portsmouth with new open spaces and planned commercial developments, will provide the city with much-needed outdoor amenities serving the needs of the public.