Category Archives: livability

VAUGHAN MALL GREEN: AN ECOLOGICAL PLACEMAKING PROJECT

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 www.ps21.info 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, PortsmouthNH.com, The Sound, Coruway Film Institute, 3S Artspace, Energize 360, Seacoast Local, Seacoast Peace Academy, SEAREI, Seacoast Permaculture Meetup

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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 www.ps21.info, 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

Place-making: The Results Are In

Which location would you target first if you wanted to make downtown Portsmouth a better place?

After hearing ideas and seeing illustrations by landscape architect Robert White , there was a clear audience preference at a PS21 event: the Vaughan Mall.

More than 70 people attended the presentation and discussion at the library Feb. 1. The vote tally (estimated by PS21) was:

  • Vaughan Mall ~50%
  • ‘Spring Hill Square’ (Hanover and Market streets) ~ 35%
  • State Street – 10%
  • Market Square ~ 5%

Vaughan Mall supporters cited the need to improve the pedestrian walkway and the ease and relatively low cost with which it might be done.

The Feb. 1 session was a follow-up to PS21’s fall workshop on “place-making.” Place-making is a philosophy and approach to creating better public spaces that focuses: uses and activities, access and linkages, sociability and comfort and image. From the workshop, ideas for the Vaughan Mall, ideas included

  • Add a children’s play area
  • Provide more seating and a variety of seating options
  • Add a water feature
  • Bring back the stage
  • Consider expanding into the Worth Parking Lot
  • Provide better wayfinding for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Offer better lighting
  • Vary walking surfaces and textures
  • Improve maintenance of facades and storefronts
  • Add more vegetation

Portsmouth Deputy Police Chief re: ‘Traffic Inquiry’

“Our rough numbers run today show approximately 4,680 car stops in 2013 resulting in 2,080 tickets/written warnings and 2,600 verbal warnings.  As we discussed our goal is to impact the driver’s behavior.  If we can accomplish that with just a verbal warning, we are happy with that.  I suggest our traffic enforcement should be judged based on the number of car stops we make, not tickets written.

“As promised I wanted to provide some of the reasons behind our current numbers.  In short we are in the midst of a transition brought about by years of budget cuts and reductions.  In the past few years we had to downsize, downgrade and reorganize the police department to cover the workload of over 10 staff lost (over 20,000+hrs of work annually) and that has been very challenging.  Essentially we were forced to go from a department that was extremely proactive to one that was largely reactive.  We lost not only officers on the street but also school resource officers and detectives.

“However, we are gaining more equilibrium with the implementation of each step of our short term plan.

“Downtown foot patrols are back for 16 hours a day utilizing 1 to 2 officers depending on the hour of day/day of week.

“The 2-officer traffic/back-up car, which covered a portion of 4 zones has been split.  Two 1-officer back-up cars now split the entirety of Portsmouth into North and South during the hours or 7pm and 3am.  This allows for greater officer safety and better response times to those in the community who are in need.  Additionally their patrol areas have them driving through different areas of the center of town over the course of their shifts.  This has resulted in an increased presence in the downtown, and we are getting positive feed-back on these changes.

“We revisited our school resource officers partnership with the school department. The SRO positions go a long way to combating law enforcement related juvenile issues.  It also allows us to develop positive relationships with the youth in our city, an investment that carries into adulthood.  We have restored the commitment of the middle school and elementary school SRO’s.

“We have put a strong emphasis on Community and Problem Oriented policing, but not in the traditional sense, as the old model was manpower intensive. Instead, we have designated a detective to head this initiative.  Detective Jacques will be working with all the neighborhood groups, downtown bars and restaurants, and with our own officers on community partnerships.  He will be looking at underlying issues to repetitive calls for service such as drunk and disorderly persons, graffiti, and other chronic problems. What makes these issues particularly challenging is that they are always morphing and always in flux.  The goal here is that by addressing underlying issues, we may be able to prevent the crimes from happening in the first place.

“We know our community expects its agency to assess, control and prevent crime; to this end, on the patrol side, we also needed to put new tools in the officer’s hands.   While nothing takes the place of feet on the ground, technology can assist and supplement this in truly amazing ways.  We want our officers to pair this technology with traditional policing to get the best of both worlds.  We are installing CrimeView dashboard, which will allow us to use data to drive our directed.  It puts significant data analysis at the fingertips of the officer on the street, as well as supervisors and command staff.

“2014 arrived with a significant up-tick in heroin use, overdoses and case activity.  We have focused a lot on combating this issue through specialized assignments as well as creative policing strategies like the Community Access to Recovery Day we lead in July.  We continue to be one of the communities with the highest liquor licenses per capita in the state and new bars and restaurants continue to open.

“We were just able to secure funding for a new officer from the current city council to replace one of the 10 that have been cut.  This officer will go to our patrol division, we are also currently down one officer due to a retirement.  We are in the process of screening candidates for those two positions.

“As we begin what sometimes feels like a slow journey from reactive policing back to our past of proactive policing I expect you will see the number of traffic stops increase.  Traffic enforcement is not only a key and vital role for a patrol officer to undertake, but it is also one of the leading ways of preventing crime and catching criminals.  Our officers have been recognized at the state level for “Looking Beyond the Traffic Ticket,” essentially discovering serious criminal activity during a “routine” traffic stop.  We are committed to improving our traffic enforcement and proactive efforts.”

— Portsmouth Deputy Police Chief Corey MacDonald, email of 8/25/2014 re: “Traffic Inquiry”