Category Archives: events

Matthijs Bouw to Speak on December 6

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy sent a record storm surge of 13.88’ across New York Harbor, inundating large swaths of lower Manhattan. This prompted Mayor Michael Bloomberg to vow that the city would be prepared when the next storm strikes.

On Wednesday, December 6 at 6:30 PM at Portsmouth Public Library, PS21 will present one of the designers of New York’s new flood protection plan, Dutch architect and urbanist Matthijs Bouw. He is a founder of One Architecture, an award-winning Amsterdam and New York-based design and planning firm. Bouw will discuss his experience in New York designing protective infrastructure along Manhattan’s shoreline, and his work in the Netherlands. One third of the Netherlands is below sea level. The country has long been recognized for its sophisticated water management strategies.

Attendees will have an opportunity to discuss what lessons might apply to Portsmouth, and what infrastructure options might protect our city from a rising sea and storms of unprecedented scale. Scientists advise that climate change will bring more such storms, and with greater frequency, and that the effects will be exacerbated by a sea level that is projected to rise some 3 to 6 feet by the end of the century. It is not hard to imagine a storm surge of unprecedented height rolling up the Piscataqua on an incoming tide.

Bouw is the Rockefeller Urban Resilience Fellow for PennDesign at the University of Pennsylvania, and is developing the Chief Resilience Officer curriculum for 100 Resilient Cities. His firm co-leads the team that won the Rebuild by Design competition for the flood protection of Manhattan, and is currently part of the multi-disciplinary teams executing the first phase of the East Side Coastal Resiliency project for Lower Manhattan, as well as planning the Lower Manhattan Coastal Protection project. In Panama, Bouw is the urban designer in the ‘Water Dialogues’ team. In the Netherlands, his firm is part of the ‘Hackable City’ team for Buiksloterham, a large-scale brownfield redevelopment in Amsterdam-Noord based on the principles of the circular economy.

The event is free and all are welcome. Please register to help ensure sufficient seating.

Upcoming Events

Density Done Well: On January 25, urban planner Brent Toderian will be presenting via a live video feed from Vancouver on his signature topic that brought him international renown, Density Done Well. As he notes in his blog, It’s an understatement to say that the D-Word is a controversial subject in cities across North America. It needn’t be so though, and shouldn’t be, as when it’s done well, density is immensely important to the success of cities and regions.” Following the presentation, the local audience at 3S Arts Center will have an opportunity to pose questions to Mr. Toderian.

Vaughan Mall Green Summer Series Gets Under Way

Summer is here, and PS21 is ready to celebrate it with you! Performances and activities are scheduled for  Vaughan Mall on Saturdays from 4-6 PM through the end of August.


July 15 – Eastern Sleds with Justin Carloni, 4-6 p.m. Americana

July 22 – Singing Our Way – a cappella singing trio (4 p.m.); Leftist Marching Band – marching band with a progressive voice (5 p.m.)

July 29 – Seacoast Storytellers present “A World of Tales” with Debra Ballou, Shawn Middleton, and Michael Lang (4-6 p.m.)

RAIN Aug. 5 

Aug 12 – Midnight Blues Jazz Combo, a jazz, funk and pop quartet (4 p.m.); Ray Demarco (5 p.m.)

Aug. 19 – Jim Danger, acoustic rock’n’roll (4 p.m); Sam Robbins, acoustic Americana, country, folk and pop (5 p.m.)

Aug. 26 – Mitch Shuldman & Linda Bieber, classical guitar and flute (4-6 p.m.)

SEPT. 2 – Singer-songwriters and recording artists Jim Rioux & Guy Capecelatro III, (4-6 p.m.)

Contact Ellie  with any questions.

Vaughan Mall Green Gets Underway

Vaughan Mall Green draft drawing

On Saturday morning, the new PS21 VAUGHAN MALL GREEN project gets underway! The first phase focuses on the middle section of the mall, planting beds and adding café-style tables and chairs to make it a more friendly place to gather. We invite you to come and experience the changes, and to provide feedback on the project online at

Upcoming phases of VAUGHAN MALL GREEN will include adding signage and a lattice backing for the stage area, planters and overhead LED light strings. A mural by a Seacoast artist is under discussion.

All this is being done in partnership with the City of Portsmouth, and with help from our generous sponsors and partners.

A special celebration of the VAUGHAN MALL GREEN project will be held in June — stay tuned!

Thanks for your interest in PS21 activities. Remember, your donations to support our mission of stimulating discussion about planning issues affecting Portsmouth are always welcome. PS21 is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and tax-deductible donations support our always-free events.

Event Sponsors: New Hampshire Charitable Foundation | Portsmouth Garden Club | Portwalk Place | Selectwood | SJW LTD (Sumner and Sam Winebaum) | Michael Kelso, Carpenter

Season Sponsors: Piscataqua Savings Bank | Martha Fuller Clark

Event Partners: City of Portsmouth | Energize 360 | Seacoast Local | Seacoast Peace Academy | SEAREI | Seacoast Permaculture Meetup

PS21 Partners: Seacoast Media Group | |The Sound | Coruway Film Institute | 3S Artspace

Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century (PS21) is an independent, volunteer-led non-profit that presents ideas and encourages discussion and policy development around planning issues in Portsmouth, N.H. and the Seacoast. PS21 is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and tax-deductible donations to support its free events are welcome.


PS21 Events in April & May to Create Inviting, Ecological Common Space for Vaughan Mall

Growing out of a recent exploration of how to create dynamic, attractive public spaces, PS21 is sponsoring a three-part event in April and May to add ecological design and permaculture elements to Portsmouth’s downtown Vaughan Mall.

Vaughan Mall Tom Morgan 650px

The Vaughan Mall area, between Congress and Hanover streets, was identified in recent PS21 placemaking events as a priority for improvement. This project, Vaughan Mall Green, will combine placemaking with a demonstration of the mall as an environmentally resilient civic space, reflecting Portsmouth’s designation as an eco-municipality. The principles of permaculture, a system of agricultural and social design elements intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient, will be incorporated in the area with the guidance of planner and designer Steve Whitman.

There are three parts to the Vaughan Mall Green project, whose goal is in part to increase pedestrian activity and make it more welcoming. In the mix are plans to add edible landscaping, native species and other plantings that aid in the absorption of rain and stormwater runoff.  Placemaking ideas developed at previous PS21 events include varied seating options, additional lighting, signs for pedestrians, live performances and other activities.

Volunteers, businesses, and gardening and sustainability-focused groups will assist in the design and implementation of Vaughan Mall Green. Please RSVP

Scheduled events include:

  • Thursday, April 20 at 7 PM at 3S Artspace – Presentation by planner and permaculture designer Steve Whitman of Plymouth. Learn how you can use an ecological design process for your own property or in creating positive changes elsewhere in the city. Whitman owns Resilience Planning and Design, and teaches at Plymouth State University and Colby-Sawyer College. Please RSVP
  • Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day) at Discover Portsmouth Center, 10 AM to 4 PM – Workshop on permaculture in an urban space and project development, led by Steve Whitman. Please RSVP
  • Saturday, May 13, Kick-Off of Design Implementation at Vaughan Mall – PS21 will partner with volunteers and the city to implement the design.

The City of Portsmouth, as part of its planning process, also is considering ways to enhance Vaughan Mall and nearby areas. While these plans may be informed by PS21’s Vaughan Mall Green project, they are separate efforts. PS21 (Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century) is an independent, all-volunteer nonprofit group.

This is the latest PS21 event to focus on planning and policy issues affecting the city and its residents. Please sign up at to help ensure sufficient space and to assist with planning. PS21 events are free and open to the public, and presented as part of its mission to stimulate discussion about planning issues affecting Portsmouth. PS21 is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and tax-deductible donations to support these free events are welcome.

Event Sponsors: New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Portsmouth Garden Club and Portwalk Place

Season Sponsors: Piscataqua Savings Bank and Martha Fuller Clark

Event Partners: City of Portsmouth, Seacoast Media Group,, The Sound, Coruway Film Institute, 3S Artspace, Energize 360, Seacoast Local, Seacoast Peace Academy, SEAREI, Seacoast Permaculture Meetup


ABOUT PS21:  Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century (PS21) is an independent, volunteer-led organization that presents ideas and encourages discussion and policy development around planning issues in Portsmouth, N.H. and the Seacoast. Our goal is to support a vibrant, sustainable, livable, and walkable community compatible with the principles of smart growth, the historic nature of Portsmouth, and the context of the 21st century. PS21 maintains a blog and e-newsletter at, and archives video of many events.

Past events, all free and open to the public, have included presentations and workshops on: the Islington Street tactical urbanism project; placemaking workshops and discussions; accessory dwelling units in Portsmouth; affordable housing with planner Jennifer Hurley; “Walkable Cities” with author and planner Jeff Speck; parking expert Michael Manville; a walking tour of the city’s developing North End; Portsmouth street design by expert and Portsmouth resident Rick Chellman; Seacoast transportation modes; changing cityscapes by Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic Robert Campbell; leading Portsmouth to a healthy and vibrant future with Plan NH; and a screening of the architectural film “The Human Scale.”  ps21.infoFacebook | Twitter

ADU Event Draws Full House

Nearly 90 people came to the Portsmouth library Feb. 22 to hear Ben Frost of the NH Housing Finance Authority and Rick Taintor, Portsmouth planning director, discuss accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and the city’s new ordinance governing ADUs.

The video includes both presentations and the Q&A afterward. Slides from Frost’s entertaining presentation on ADUs and the state law and Taintor’s detailed look at Portsmouth’s ordinance can be downloaded by clicking on the links. Portsmouth’s zoning changes also are available.

Accessory Dwelling Units in Portsmouth: What, Why & How

PS21 Event February 22 at Portsmouth Library to Learn More About the Possibilities and Impacts of ADUs

Are you wondering how the new Portsmouth Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance could impact you and your neighborhood?

On Wednesday, February 22 at 7 PM in the Levenson Room of Portsmouth Public Library, PS21 will present an event featuring Ben Frost from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and Rick Taintor from the Portsmouth Planning Department to discuss the law, its possibilities and impact.

New Hampshire’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) law was signed last year by Governor Hassan. An “accessory dwelling unit” is defined as a residential living unit that is within or attached to a single-family dwelling, and that provides independent living facilities for one or more persons.

The fundamental requirement of the new law is that every municipality with a zoning ordinance “shall allow accessory dwelling units as a matter of right or by either conditional use permit….” To comply with the ADU law, which takes effect statewide in June, the Portsmouth City Council passed an ordinance last month.

Frost of New Hampshire Housing will talk about ADUs, show examples, and explain how they can help ease the affordable housing crisis in the city and state.

Portsmouth Planning Director Rick Taintor will follow with a discussion of Portsmouth’s new ADU ordinance, and there will be an opportunity to ask him questions.

This PS21 event is free and open to the public, and presented by Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century (PS21) as part of its series to stimulate discussion about policy and planning issues affecting Portsmouth.

Season Sponsors: Piscataqua Savings Bank, Geoffrey E. Clark and Martha Fuller Clark Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Coruway Film Institute

Event Partners: Seacoast Media Group, The Sound


PS21 Report on Place-Making in Portsmouth

According to participants in a PS21 workshop, inexpensive measures like better seating, food trucks, planned activities, better lighting and basic landscaping could transform under-utilized spaces in downtown Portsmouth and enhance popular locations.

More than 40 citizens took part in ‘walkability audit’ and ‘place-making’ workshop in late October that focused on four downtown Portsmouth locations:

  • Vaughan Mall
  • Fat Belly Square (aka Market and Hanover streets)
  • Market Square
  • State Street (main between the Unitarian Church and Fleet Street)

Participants asked: Were the places welcoming, cooperative and neighborly? Did they have vital uses and enjoyable activities? Were the locations walkable, convenient and accessible? Were they safe, clean and attractive?

Ideas from the brainstorming session and the ‘place-making’ principles that informed it are summarized in a newly released report from PS21 (Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century) and Jane Lafleur, the workshop leader from the organization Lift360.


The workshop, which followed a showing of the classic film on place-making, “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces,” generated dozens of ideas for enhancing downtown locations. PS21 plans a public session in January to discuss ideas.

ADU Ordinance Heads to City Council

An ordinance allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), as required by a recently passed state law, goes to the Portsmouth City Council on Dec. 5. The proposed ordinance can found on

For a primer on ADUs, see Accessory Dwelling Units: What they are and why people build them?

Season Sponsors: Piscataqua Savings Bank, Coruway Film Institute
Event Partners: 3S Artspace, City of Portsmouth, Seacoast Media Group, The Sound

ps21.infoFacebook | Twitter

ABOUT PS21: Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century presents ideas and encourages discussion and policy development around planning issues in Portsmouthh, N.H. and the Seacoast. Our goal is to support a vibrant, sustainable, livable, and walkable community compatible withthe principles of smart growth, the historic nature of Portsmouth, and the context of the 21st century. PS21 maintains a blog and e-newsletter at, and archives video recordings of many events

Islington Street Lab Video & Report Published

islington street lab

Islington Street Lab, a community-based tactical urbanism project that spanned five weeks in May and June 2016, culminated with the temporary transformation of a block of Islington Street from Albany Street to the Bartlett Street intersection in the West End of Portsmouth.

Read the Report

Read the comments

Mike Lydon of Street Plans gave a great presentation on “tactical urbanism,” explaining what it is and why it works, on June 1 in Portsmouth. His talk also covered the process and ideas involved with PS21’s Islington Street Lab, which made changes to Islington Street for four days.

Facing Climate Change in Portsmouth

An audience of 200 filled 3S Artspace in Portsmouth Tuesday evening to hear internationally recognized climatologist and UNH professor Cameron Wake talk about climate change, the range of impacts Portsmouth and the Seacoast can expect, and how communities can respond.

During this presentation, Wake suggested that, in addition to the sea-level and temperature rise that is certain to happen, the future could hold several “nasty surprises” that would make things immeasurably worse for humankind.

Two days later, a scientific paper described exactly how one of those could happen. See “Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly”  — NY Times.

Also see the N.H. Business Review article, “Rising Sea Levels Will Affect Seacoast Economy.

Robert Campbell on the Art of Placemaking

Robert Campbell, one of the country’s most respected architectural critics, talked about architecture with insight and humor at a PS21-sponsored presentation Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Robert Campbell, Architect and JournalistAn architect himself, Campbell described architecture as the art placemaking before an audience of 200 at 3S Artspace. Campbell decried designs that discourage people from congregating and interacting, and at times spoke favorably about streetscapes in Portsmouth.

Robert Campbell is a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his work as architecture critic of the Boston Globe. A resident of Cambridge, he was a regular columnist for the magazine Architectural Record for many years and is the co-author, with photographer Peter Vanderwarker, of Cityscapes of Boston: An American City Through Time, which the Chicago Tribune says “belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who cares about the fate of the American city.”

Support for “Architecture Is the Art of Making Places” was provided by Lassel Architects and Manypenny Murphy Architecture. The PS21 series is presented in partnership with: Piscataqua Savings Bank, Seacoast Rotary Club of Portsmouth, and Coruway Film Institute. Media sponsors are Seacoast Media Group and The Sound.

(Read Portsmouth Herald article.)