PORTSMOUTH – While the COVID-19 pandemic threw a proverbial wrench into many development plans across the nation, Portsmouth has seemingly rebounded and begun progressing on a number of exciting projects in the downtown.
“I have been so excited watching 2nd Street with the explosions of property rehabilitation and new businesses moving into the Boneyfiddle area,” said 3rd Ward Councilman Andy Cole. “Over the last year, I am proud to say that Portsmouth has been actively making moves towards setting the groundwork for our future. At every turn, we have faced challenges and have pulled together to make well thought out changes.”
Two major changes soon incoming to the downtown will be the relocation of city hall to the former 5/3 Bank building (located at 500 Chillicothe Street) and the long awaited reopening of the former Marting’s Building (located at 515 Chillocthe Street).
“The development of the former Marting’s Building and the new city building will keep the momentum going onward. All these things are culminating new life and focusing activities around the downtown and Chillicothe Street,” said Cole. “The new city building will accomplish many goals. It will host over one hundred jobs in a centralized base and it consolidates many departments, including waterworks and the Portsmouth income tax office, under one roof giving easier access for residents. The move adds desperately needed square footage for many departments like our police and will also increase the space for our health department to grow and operate efficiently.”
While there are not many public details to be had on the Marting’s building development, now owned by 515 GC LLC, the former 5/3 building’s renovation work is progressing quickly.
Gordon said she is glad to see a private investor take the Marting’s building and breath new life into it.
“The Marting’s Building has been an albatross for the city for a long time. Now, we can put it in someone’s hands that is going to develop it.”
Mayor and 1st Ward Councilman Sean Dunne attributed downtown development, including the Marting’s Building, to early private investors such as Jeremy and Maddie Burnside, Tim Wolfe, and Cinnamon Wellington.
“It was the business developers which led to the private investor going into the Marting’s Building,” said Dunne. “Originally, there was a proposal to put the city building in there, but that would have led to financial disaster. The availability of the 5/3 building was really important for us, instead of spending 15-18 million to renovating the Marting’s Building it will total somewhere around 2 million.”
Martings, the new city building, and the SSU Kricker Innovation Hub (located at 221 Chillicothe Street) will form the major anchors of the new arts, cultural, and innovation district (ACID) in the downtown. Gordon and other supporters hope that it breathes new life into the Chillicothe Street corridor and generates the same buzz that Boneyfiddle’s resurgence has in recent years.
“The old model where an industry comes to town and hires everyone is just not going to happen,” said Gordon. “We need to look at how to help new and existing businesses grow. How we can support them and allow them to hire more people and pay them a good wage. We need to create energy. When we created the idea of the ACID district, it was a notion of filling these buildings and funneling energy into this section of town.”
Gordon, who is also the co-executive director at the Southern Ohio Museum, announced that the museum had purchased the former Richard Noggins pub next door and is planning to use the parcel to expand operations.
“Noggins is moving to a space in the 1st Ward off Market Street,” she explained. “They are renovating an old warehouse. But this building needed a lot of work. There is a lot of water damage on the roof. We are going to use it to make an addition to the museum.”
Gordon explained in order to follow through with the museum’s strategic plan, they would need more education, gallery, and storage space. As demolition of the former Noggins building occurs, they will begin to add those spaces.
“We are also looking to increase our performing arts with outdoor concerts,” said Gordon. “We want to really build that into our downtown.”
There are a plethora of other developments in the downtown, including the potential Choice Hotel development, upcoming Market Street Pavilion and the Landing in Portsmouth – a brand new artist gallery and event space off Market Street. But Mayor Dunne has more plans on his radar.
“Last year, I proposed to bring in a financial adviser board. I think it was misguided for us not to go forward with that. They would seek out opportunities for private investors and partnerships – which we don’t have currently. They would help us address one of the major things we lack in the downtown which is housing. We don’t have anyone doing real estate development. So, I’d like to move forward with that.”
Dunne also addressed other projects, such as expanding the Ohio River Way which runs from Portsmouth to Louisville along the Ohio River and creating a historic football trail to boost football tourism in the region.
Going forward, Councilman Cole says more things will continue to come into the downtown thanks to the sheer amount of activity.
“The recent Ellen Vetter Chocolate walk included over 30 local business stops in our downtown area. The upcoming second annual Art Walk will fill the downtown streets with music and artwork. We have two farmers markets in the downtown area on Tuesdays and Saturdays through the summer months. The expanded Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) has linked more restaurants and bars within the downtown area and has encouraged people to get out and explore. The bonyfiddle project
hosts free concerts, starting in May, which brings amazing music talent to the Bonyfiddle area. All of this brings more people into our downtown.”
Derrick C. Parker, PDT Contributor © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved