Strong Towns

What does it mean to be a Strong Town? Chuck Marohn, the Founder and President of Strong Towns, will provide some insights on Wednesday April 3 at 6:30 PM at the Portsmouth Public Library.



Common belief is that supporting cities and towns that invest in community is an expensive process. What we often miss from this perspective is a comparison. For generations, local governments have focused on expanding and developing infrastructure for cars—often at the expense of pedestrian safety and community vitality. While liabilities have grown, transportation funding has not kept up. Now there is a desperate need to shift. Rather than build new, we need to maintain existing transportation infrastructure. Rather than emphasize expansion, we need to focus on existing investments. We face an important question: How do we get the most value out of our infrastructure investments while improving walkability, safety, and community strength? 



The Strong Towns approach is a radically new way of thinking about the way we build our world. We believe that in order to truly thrive, our cities and towns must: 

• Stop valuing efficiency and start valuing resilience 

• Stop betting on huge projects, and start taking smart steps 

• Stop fearing change and start embracing continuous adaptation 

• Stop building our world based on abstract theories, and start building it based on how our places actually work and what our neighbors actually need today 

• Stop obsessing over future growth and start obsessing about our current finances 

But most importantly, we believe that Strong Citizens from all walks of life must participate in a Strong Towns approach—from citizens to leaders, professionals to neighbors, and everyone in between. 



Charles Marohn is the Founder and President of Strong Towns. He’s a Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in the State of Minnesota and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). Marohn has a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute.

Marohn is the lead author of Thoughts on Building Strong Towns — Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3 — as well as the author of A World Class Transportation System. He hosts the Strong Towns Podcast and is a primary writer for Strong Towns’ web content. He has presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America and in 2017 was named one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of all time by Planetizen. 



We will reserve ample time for questions and discussion. The event is free and all are welcome. Please register here to help ensure sufficient seating.

Event Sponsors: Piscataqua Savings Bank, Rosamond Thaxter Foundation, Piscataqua Garden Club, Portsmouth Housing Authority, City of Portsmouth, and the Geoffrey E. Clark and Martha Fuller Clark Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation.

Event Partners: Seacoast Media Group,, Coruway Film Institute, and the Sailmaker House.

Paris to Pittsburgh

The Portsmouth Library’s Levenson Room was filled to capacity on February 20 for a showing of the film Paris to Pittsburgh. The showing is noteworthy in that the Portsmouth screening was one of the film’s first in the United States.

A lively discussion ensued, moderated by UNH climate scientist Cameron Wake. City Councilor Josh Denton then brought us all up to speed on the City’s initiatives aimed toward meeting the goals of the Paris Accord.

We at PS21  were particularly pleased to see that a dozen Portsmouth High School students joined us on the 20th. The students posed some excellent questions and insights. It’s obvious that they are paying attention.

Paris to Portsmouth II

As a sequel to Edward Cameron’s presentation in April 2018 entitled Paris to Portsmouth, PS21 is pleased to present part II of that series. We will be showing the film Paris to Pittsburgh at the Portsmouth Public Library.

Paris to Pittsburgh is a new film from National Geographic, produced by RadicalMedia in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies — narrated by Emmy® and GoldenGlobe® Award-winning actress and activist Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous
Mrs. Maisel”).

From coastal cities to America’s heartland, Americans are demanding and developing real solutions in the face of climate change. And as the weather grows more deadly and destructive, they aren’t waiting on Washington to act. Learn about their stories in Paris to Pittsburgh, and be inspired to create change in Portsmouth. Watch the trailer here.

The event commences at 6:30 PM on Wednesday February 20 in the Levenson Room at the Portsmouth Public Library. The photo below is taken from a segment of the film that addresses renewable energy.

Immediately following the film, PS21 will host a discussion led by UNH climate scientist Cameron Wake. Portsmouth City Councilor Josh Denton will update us on efforts currently underway by the City of Portsmouth, as well as those soon to come.

We will reserve ample time for questions and discussion. The event is free and all are welcome. Please register online to help ensure sufficient seating.



The rally to support the new Middle Street bicycle lanes drew quite a large crowd of bicycle enthusiasts to the Lafayette playground  on November 4.
Pictured above are City Councilor Ned Reynolds, Mayor Jack Blalock, City Councilor Josh Denton, and former City Councilor Brad Lown. You may peruse many other photos of this event on PS21’s Flickr site.

Accessory Dwelling Units

PS21 is pleased to partner with the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority to bring Kol Peterson to Portsmouth. Mr. Peterson is one of the country’s foremost experts on accessory dwelling units. He will be presenting  on Tuesday October 2 at 7 PM at the 3S Artspace. Please register online in order to ensure sufficient seating.

 An ADU can benefit you by being a self-contained apartment for a family member, a caregiver, or to use as a rental unit for additional income. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) – also known as granny flats, inlaw suites, and accessory apartments – are allowed in all New Hampshire communities by state statute. Accessory to the primary house on the property, whether attached to it (above a garage, on the side of the house, in an attic or basement) or detached (a converted garage or barn or new construction). 

Peterson’s book, Backdoor Revolution-The Definitive Guide to ADU Development, is the authoritative book about accessory dwelling units to date. It’s written for planners, ADU advocates, and homeowners who aspire to build ADUs. 

Peterson will cover the process of designing and building an ADU, and considerations including costs, financing, permitting, design, rental models, and more. He’ll also delve into why expanding the inventory of ADUs in New Hampshire will help homeowners, would-be renters, downsizers, and the availability of affordable housing for our state’s workforce and communities.

The event is presented by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, and co-hosted by the Workforce Housing Coalition of the Greater Seacoast and PS21. The event’s lead sponsor is AARP. The Lodging Sponsor is The Sailmaker’s House. Event Partners are the Seacoast Media Group,, 3S Artspace, Coruway Film Institute, Riverwoods Durham, and Ambit Engineering.

Following the presentation, we will reserve ample time for questions and discussion. The event is free and all are welcome. Please register online in order to ensure sufficient seating.

Purchase Backdoor Revolution-The Definitive Guide to ADU Development online for $10 (a 60% discount) and pick it up at the event.

Bicycle & Pedestrian Counts

This just in from Portsmouth’s planning department:

The Planning Department is undertaking annual Bicycle and Pedestrian Counts in the coming weeks and we are in need of volunteers! As someone who has volunteered in the past we are reaching out to see if you are able to help us again this year. The counts will take place on Saturday, June 16, 2018 and Tuesday  June 19, 2018. Please see the following link for specific timeslots on each of these days to sign up:  The data that is gathered from these annual counts is vital to our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure planning for the City and we appreciate any time you can give! Please contact Nick Fawcett (, 603-610-7309) here in the Planning Dept. with any questions. Location assignments and instructions will be sent out after sign-ups are received.


Phil Goff’s Presentation Now Available

Phil Goff is the New England planning and design leader for Alta Planning + Design’s Cambridge office. Alta is a Portland, OR-based consulting firm that specializes in active transportation facilities and programs. Goff has 20 years of experience in urban design, transportation planning and bicycle advocacy. A native of Keene, he has worked on various projects throughout the state and sits on the Board of the Bike-Walk Alliance of NH.

On May 23 at Portsmouth High School, Goff gave a presentation on innovations in bicycle facilities and design with recommendations for Portsmouth. Massachusetts cities such as Cambridge and Somerville have made great strides over that past 15 years in designing their compact and crowded streets to accommodate more bicycles. They have vastly increased the number of cycling commuters while reducing motor traffic and maintaining safety for all. There are a lot of creative ideas Portsmouth can borrow that are illustrated in Goff’s presentation.