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Portsmouth residents discuss possible uses for McIntyre building

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent

February 08. 2018 10:19PM
The building that houses the Portsmouth Post Office will be redeveloped as part of a public-private partnership with the city. (KIMBERLEY HAAS FILE PHOTO)



PORTSMOUTH — More than 40 people turned out Thursday night to talk about the redevelopment of the Thomas J. McIntyre Federal Building on Daniel Street.

During a breakout session, residents were asked what they would like to see happen on the site. Jen Benjamin, who moved to Portsmouth 15 years ago, said as the city has become more developed, there are fewer places for locals to get the things they need.

Karin Barndollar and Michele Heisner agreed.

“There’s a lot of new condominiums and apartments downtown. Those people need to buy groceries,” Heisner said.

Others wanted to explore the idea of affordable housing for the people who work downtown. Current projected rents for apartments, if they are put into the redevelopment, average $2,800 a month.

Peter Somssich said there is workforce housing in other sections of the city. He doesn’t think it would work at the McIntyre Building.

“I don’t think this is a really good place for this,” Somssich said.

The 107,000-square-foot building houses the city’s post office and is located on 2.1 acres in the city’s central business district.

The city is petitioning the federal government to acquire the McIntyre site through the Historic Surplus Property Program. This program allows the federal government, through the Government Services Administration, to convey property at no cost to state and local governments when there is a compelling public benefit, according to information released by Portsmouth officials.

For the application to be successful when presented to the Department of Interior and National Park Service, the city must have a preservation, use and financial plan for the property, according to city documents.

Last month, city councilors chose Redgate of Boston and the Kane Company of Portsmouth as their partner firm for redevelopment.

Gene Bolinger, vice president of Weston & Sampson, reviewed the basic facts of the application process for residents Thursday night.

Bolinger said redeveloping the building will allow the entire block to perform to its capacity. “The city wants to take full advantage of this opportunity,” Bolinger said.

Bolinger said a number of people have already said they do not want a hotel on the property. Some people have expressed an interest in use of the top floor, which would offer panoramic views of downtown and the river.

Deputy City Manager Nancy Colbert Puff said the city has been interested in the site since 2004; officials are reviewing documents related to any environmental issues.

“It’s really critical the city not take on the burden of an environmental cleanup at this site,” Puff said.

City Councilor Chris Dwyer, chairman of the McIntyre Steering Committee, told those in attendance there will be other opportunities to provide input over the course of the next two months.

Officials are projecting the application will be submitted to the federal government in June.


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