‘Walkability’ the Focus of June Events

Portsmouth SmartGrowth 21st Century1‘Walkability’ is suddenly a hot topic in Portsmouth with many opportunities in the next few weeks to affect the city streetscape. Be prepared — read Walkable City! It’s still only $12 at Riverrun Bookstore.


The Planning Board and interested citizens will take a field trip to Portwalk III this Thursday, May 29 (6 p.m. next to the BRGR Bar) as it considers approval of 25 changes to the project’s site plan. Some changes affect the pedestrian experience,  such as the brick wall on Maplewood Avenue. The public will subsequently be able comment at a June 19 board meeting.  The HDC also has jurisdiction over Portwalk, and will consider changes and possible mitigation efforts on Wednesday, June 11.

walkable city by jeff speckTom Holbrook, owner of Riverrun Bookstore, will moderate a PS21 discussion of the principles in Jeff’s Speck’s book, Walkable City, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 3 at the Portsmouth Public Library.  The best-selling design book of 2012, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time, is relevant and accessible. Speck shows why walkability matters to livability and lays out a 10-point plan for making it happen. Planning magazine writes that Speck “make[s] a 312-page book on a basic planning concepts seem too short … For getting planning ideas into the thinking and the daily life of U.S. cities, this is the book.” The plan is to break up into small groups to discuss the book’s relevance to Portsmouth, then reform as single group to consider priorities.**

PS21 participants should be well-prepared two days later when draft recommendations for the Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan are reviewed. (Thursday, June 5, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Portsmouth Public Library).

The Historic District Commission considers what to do about the Portwalk III unauthorized changes to the site plan, including the brick wall, landscaping and other alterations.

Paul Zykofksy, a national Complete Streets expert, will be the keynote speaker at an information session and discussion 7-8:30 p.m.  Thursday, Jun. 12 at the Little Theatre of Portsmouth High School. His appearance is part of a grant to the city from Smart Growth America.

— A DVD of the film ‘The Human Scale,’  which 75 people watched at the PS21 event May 13, is now available from the Portsmouth Public Library.

— Read a PS21 take on “smart growth.”

** For people who can’t attend June 3, there will be an independent discussion of Walkable City beginning at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 28 at the library, moderated by Sean Moundas, who leads the library’s nonficton book group.

PS21 – Portsmouth SmartGrowth 21st Century – is a nonprofit group that aims to present ideas and encourage discussion and policy development around planning issues in Portsmouth. Our goal is to support the creation of a vibrant, sustainable, livable, and walkable community, compatible with the principles of Smart Development, the historic nature of Portsmouth and the context of the 21st century.

What Is Smart Growth?

One reason PS21 included “smart growth” in its name was because the term was being so loosely used that it had started to mean “growth I think is smart.”

“Smart Growth,” with capital letters, is a set of policies and approaches to development arose over the past five or six decades as a response to the negative social and environmental effects of sprawl and automobile dependency.

Parris Glendening, the former governor of Maryland, is generally credited with being the first to use the term, in 1996.

The Smart Growth Manual (2010) says,  smart growth is “the opposite of automobile-based suburban development.” The book then takes 240 pages to summarize and illustrate dozens of smart growth policies.

Meanwhile, the EPA suggests there are ten principles to Smart Growth.

For additional takes on Smart Growth, see: Smart Growth America, NOAA’s Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth or “Smart Growth”  according to Wikipedia.

What aspects of Smart Growth apply to Portsmouth? To Portsmouth downtown? How you define “smart growth.”



Notes on ‘The Human Scale’ discussion 5/13

Notes by Jerry Zelin

Approx. 75 people attended, and there was a moderated discussion after a showing of the movie ‘The Human Scale’ at the Portsmouth Public Library.

Tom Morgan (PS21): What lessons from movie are applicable to Portsmouth?

Steve McHenry and Margaret Robidoux of McHenry Architecture make a brief presentation and lead the discussion.

Steve McHenry: The movie focused planning for big cities. In China, the pace of growth is so quick that creates sense of urgency regarding need to plan. Ditto in Portsmouth. Portsmouth has been growing over the past 20 years, but growth has exploded recently.

Not all the development has been top down. Early on, it was lots of people investing in their own homes, historic preservation. Some elements require critical mass to be successful, e.g., Portland’s Public Market project lacked critical mass of housing in city to succeed.

Portsmouth’s growth of as a center for dining and restaurants arose from individuals willing to invest and the city then reaching a critical mass as a destination.

Margaret Robidoux:  We need to consider buildings, but must also consider the streetscape and what moves through it — cars, walkers, bikes, buses. Example, recent changes in New York City, such as in Times Square and on Broadway, involved in consideration of pedestrians as well as cars.

Portsmouth’s fixation on “where will I park” should change to “how and where will I walk?” Ditto re: bikes.

Audience member: But must park car before walking. Why not establish a rent-a-bike program? Drive car to satellite parking, then rent a bike to ride to downtown.   It’s an alternative to carrying bike on the car.

Continue reading Notes on ‘The Human Scale’ discussion 5/13

Walkable City – June 3rd

Walkable City by Jeff SpeckDiscussion 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 3
Levenson Room, Portsmouth Public Library
Available at RiverRun Bookstore at a 25% discount thru June 3
Several copies available  at the Portsmouth Public Library

CommuteSmart Seacoast Launches

The project to get Seacoast commuters to carpool, bike or walk, and use transit has launched with a well-attended press event and a slick website (www.commutesmartseacoast.org).

CommuteSmart Seacoast is a Transportation Management Association. Membership is free to Seacoast employers, and services include:

  • Online carpool or vanpool matching service for employees, including tracking of commuter trips and internal employer commuter contests
  • On-site promotional events and materials about carpooling/vanpooling, bicycling/walking, transit, and telecommuting
  • Surveying and analyzing employee transportation patterns and needs
  • commuteSMARTclubregistered commuters are eligible for the Emergency Ride Home program (up to 6 free rides home if an emergency occurs during work or carpool driver has emergency) and drawings for prizes.
  • Quarterly e-newsletter and email blasts
  • Regional commuter events and contests (e.g. “Bike to Work Week”, “Try Transit Week”, “Dump the Pump Day”)
  • Workshops (e.g. bike safety, bike maintenance)
  • Advocating on regional transportation issues
  • Roundtables on commuting options and topics of common concern to members

Some of the initial 20+ participating employers include Lonza, the City of Portsmouth, Redhook Brewery, the Courtyard by Marriott-Portsmouth, and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Bicycle Adventure Documentary Screens in Portsmouth

Redhook Brewery is hosting a screening of The Long Bike Back, and the subjects of the film, Pearson and Pete Constantino, will bike to the event on their way from New York to Maine on a New England tour to promote safer roads.  The screening is followed by a Q&A with Pearson, Pete, and the film’s director, Julia Wrona.

The Long Bike Back chronicles Pearson Constantino’s recovery from a devastating hit-and-run crash and his exciting bike ride across America with his brother Pete advocating for safer roads and reminding people of the joy of riding a bicycle.

Now Pearson and Pete Constantino are traveling again by bike, this time across New England to celebrate National Bike Month and share the documentary.

Where: Redhook Brewery, 1 Redhook Way Pease Intl Tradeport, Portsmouth, NH, 03801

When: Saturday May 10th at 7pm

Realtors Discover Walkable Places Are Preferred

Most Americans want to live an single-family detached house, but a 2013 Community Preference Survey undertaken by the National Association of Realtors also found a strong and growing preference for walkable places.

“Most Americans now want to live in a walkable neighborhood where they can walk to shops and restaurants and parks, and many are willing to give up a large yard to do so. There is also a strong interest in having access to public transportation,” the NAR’s Joseph Molinaro writes.

Full article


What great cities need

“Good cities need infrastructure, efficiency, and economic activity, and smart cities give equally strong attention to arts and culture, social compassion, and sustainability. But great cities need more than that. They need beauty.

“They need to inspire creativity, energy and affection for the place we live in, through that beauty. They need buildings, streets and places that move us, that inspire us to be more creative and civil. They need beauty that makes us fall in love with where we live. As is true with anything we love, we’ll be unable to watch our city being treated badly.

“Does beauty mean things have to be more expensive? Not necessarily, if we’re clever (besides, it’s amazing how expensive ugly can be). Does beauty pay dividends for a smart city? Of course. The economic spinoffs in private sector re-investment and the resulting municipal tax generation are proven, and in fact beauty has a better track-record of return on investment than ugly does.

“It’s good for business, for quality of life, and for attraction of creative industries and people. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Absolutely, but so what? Even the discussion of what is beautiful … is worthwhile. People may not agree, and that’s the beauty of it. But we’ll be having a great conversation.”

— Brent Toderian, Toderian UrbanWORKS

Sustainable Commuting in the Seacoast

Thursday, Apr. 24 will be the official launch of CommuteSMART Seacoast, which is a new program for sustainable commuting in the Seacoast. The regional Transportation Management Association (TMA) will hold a brief press conference and reception at Redhook Brewery from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The mission of CommuteSMART Seacoast is to promote sustainable commuting choices (ridesharing, public transit, walk/bike, telecommuting) to support a vibrant greater Seacoast. For more information, contact Anne Rugg, Manager of CommuteSMART Seacoast at 743-5777 ext.109 or arugg@commuteSMARTseacoast.org. — City of Portsmouth