SCIOTO — Implementation of Portsmouth’s new Master Plan – Elevate Portsmouth, introduced in early January, will focus on three areas designated as priorities by the City of Portsmouth and others involved in creating the plan.
Riverfront development is a major part of the short and long-term aspects of the Master Plan. The topic originated with Portsmouth’s grant entry in the 2015 America’s Best Communities Competition as part of the Community Revitalization Plan. A primary goal in future planning is to improve commercial and community access to the Portsmouth riverfront with the objective to facilitate outdoor entertainment, recreation and commercial opportunities along the riverfront and its surrounding downtown area.
The City of Portsmouth anticipates taking initial steps toward improving riverfront recreation by starting work on a new multi-use trail along Front Street this spring. Made of asphalt, it will be eight feet wide and 1.3 miles long and will end at Offnere Street.
Riverfront development is expected to be ongoing for the next five to ten years, according to Tracy Shearer, Portsmouth City Development Director. It will require a major effort to procure grants which Shearer has already been working on. One of the first projects envisioned is a newly-constructed amphitheater with improved seating matching the existing slope of the riverbank. Designs call for 11 rows of seating which will give a capacity of 740 for festivals, concerts and other riverside events. Shearer applied for the amphitheater grant in November and expects to hear if it is funded in March. It is hoped that the amphitheater construction will be completed in the third year of the master plan implementation as estimated in the Master Plan.
A 2020 grant made to Main Street Portsmouth from the Scioto Foundation’s Downtown Rethinking Portsmouth Grant Initiative will make possible an additional piece of riverfront development much earlier. This spring Main Street Portsmouth, with assistance from the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, will underwrite the creation of an outdoor physical fitness park adjacent to the existing playground where adults will be able to bring their children to play while they work out on nine different exercise machines and enjoy the beautiful riverfront.
Other recreational improvement plans anticipated as possibilities in later phases for the riverfront include piers, stages, an outdoor classroom, shelters and more.
Focusing on a nearby area of Portsmouth, Market Square is the highest prioritized and most supported of all Elevate Portsmouth concepts, according to the Master Plan. While several ideas were visualized for the creation of quality places and activation of this open space, the planning team and committee members favored a Median Pavilion concept on Market Square as a future undertaking. Parking is currently being discussed as a matter of concern that needs to be addressed regarding the pavilion project.
As suggested in the Master Plan, key components for the Market Square Pavilion idea might be such attractions as food truck parking, trees and shade, a small picnic shelter, picnic tables or another type of group and individual seating, a small playground of climbable/interactive public art, overhead lighting and a flexible pavilion that can host vendors
for farmers markets, craft fairs, and community events such as neighboring gatherings and festivals.
Another huge endeavor that will create lasting change for the Portsmouth area is the renovation and activation of Spartan Stadium as a recreational park. One of the most requested ideas in the Master Plan, the concept shows how the stadium could serve as a semi-regional location for multiple sports leagues, neighborhood meeting and event space, and a large event venue.
For now, however, the Army Corp of Engineers has a large project planned for the levy in this area which will last two years, said Shearer. Attention will be directed toward the stadium project when their project is completed.
Proposed recommendations for the recreational park, which would be accomplished in phases and take at least a couple of years to complete, include historic stadium renovation for sporting, music and civic events; a connection to downtown via a trail system on the levee; a playground; a formalized parking area with central gathering space; food truck parking; walking paths; a climbing wall and a pavilion and food court with seating. The main concentration would be on sporting facilities such as a sand volleyball or basketball court, a BMX jump track, three regulation soccer fields and one mid-sized field, and a variety of six baseball and softball diamonds, including regulation-sized fields.
The creation of the Spartan Stadium recreational park is projected to be long-term and funded through both public and private sources.
The Master Plan – Elevate Portsmouth contains many other short-term and long-term plans for the community identifying small investments that will make big impacts. The plan
envisions concepts like crosswalk in the downtown and Boneyfiddle, parklets, storefront activations, Roy Rogers Esplanade improvements and further historic preservation which can be accomplished on a short-term basis by property owners, foundations, the arts community, private developers, investors, collaborators and community groups.
Private developers and local residents can inspect posters illustrating public spaces and investment opportunities in many sites around town such as City buildings, DESCO, the Portsmouth Public Library, the Portsmouth Welcome Center, Market Street Cafe, Patties and Pints Restaurants, The Lofts, Tim Horton’s, the Brew Pub, Gatti’s, Lute’s Supply and the Scioto Foundation.
Interested investors, developers and representatives of community groups desiring more information are encouraged to contact Tracy Shearer, Portsmouth City Development Director, at (740) 354-5673 and Kim Cutlip, Scioto Foundation Executive Director, or Patty Tennant, Scioto Foundation Program Officer – Donor Services, at (740) 354-4612.