Northern Tier Has Real Chance to Get it Right
Date: Friday, Jan 26, 2007
Publication: Portsmouth Herald
Long an eyesore reminder of a 1970s urban renewal project gone bad, we applaud the decision by owners of the Parade Office Mall to raze and transform the downtown Portsmouth property.
Cathartes Private Investments, the Boston company that owns the site, told the Herald it will go before city boards -- beginning Feb. 14 with the Historic District Commission -- to propose a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development more in harmony with the city's downtown business and residential environment.
"The Parade Office Mall was an urban redevelopment that put a large building in the middle of a lot and put parking around it, and was not keeping with the character of the city," said Jeff Johnston, a principal of Cathartes Private Investments, which purchased the property in 2002. "So we're looking forward to putting mixed uses there and executing what's in the city's master plan."
The urban redevelopment of the 1960s and 1970s led to the destruction of the city's old, residential heavy North End. While that predominantly Italian-American family neighborhood -- which had an eclectic mix of double-decker homes, commercial markets and industrial enterprises -- can never be replicated, we hope that the economic development vision of the city and developers with projects on the table will provide an aesthetic, commercial and livable balance in the city's northern tier.
We do know for sure that what we see today in the northern tier will likely be a memory in the next two to three years. The Parade Office Mall project is the latest in a series of realized and proposed redevelopments of the northern tier. We have already seen positive commercial and architectural changes on Hanover Street with the completion of the Hilton Garden Inn and Harbour Hill Condominium complex. Deer Street also has undergone a building renaissance.
Other major proposed plans for the northern tier include the Westin Hotel, conference center and parking garage, which will replace the unsightly parking lot along Deer Street, and a mixed-use development project for the Portsmouth Herald property that was last developed in the early 1970s.
"We're looking to create a new district," said Portsmouth architect Lisa DeStefano, who grew up in the old North End and has been a tireless advocate for northern tier transformation.
It should be the goal of everyone in the community, city planners and local developers to ensure that the new district will be looked upon more kindly three to four decades from now than the old one is today.
-- Portsmouth Herald