First discussed publicly back in April 2018 by local developer Tim Wolfe, plans are definitely moving forward with regard to construction of a number of decorative arches to ultimately grace Second Street in Boneyfiddle.
The project is now in the hands of the increasingly well-known community group, the Friends of Portsmouth. Portsmouth City Council unanimously approved preliminary plans for the arches at their regular meeting Monday evening.
“This is a no-brainer,” said Acting Portsmouth Mayor Kevin E. Johnson. “Anything we can do to improve the downtown, we should do.”
Friends of Portsmouth spokesperson, Nick Rutman of Rutman Burnside Realty, said the immediate future of the plan now sits with engineers studying the best locations for an apparently undetermined number of arches.
During Monday’s council session, Friends member and Portsmouth Ward 1 City Councilman Sean Dunne mentioned there would be up to 10 arches on Second running through Boneyfiddle from Washington Street to Madison Street.
Rutman later said engineers and planners need to determine exactly the safest locations for the arches, which will help determine the actual number of arches installed. He said the basements of some buildings along Second Street extend out far enough to eliminate some street side spots as locations for building an archway.
“We obviously don’t want to end up in somebody’s basement,” Rutman said.
According to Rutman, engineers and planners should be getting together to hash out the final details at the latest in the next few weeks. He added while there is no rush to build the arches, the leadership of the Friends group sees no reason not to move as quickly as possible.
When Wolfe first broached the subject of the arches last year, he talked about modeling them on arches in place in the now well-favored Columbus commercial district Short North, formerly a struggling, somewhat shabby, crime-ridden neighborhood. Wolfe thought the Portsmouth arches likely would include the historic Boneyfiddle name integrated into their design. Talk of the arches always has included talk of lighting those arches. On Monday, city council and Dunne mentioned the arches possibly supporting Second Street streetlights.
Rutman said the arches will be constructed by a Portsmouth owned company. He did not want to discuss any possible price tag for the arches, though that number was previously given as about $75,000 each. The Friends of Portsmouth initially said proceeds from their well-publicized and seemingly very well received Winterfest celebration held in December would help finance the arches.
To date, the holiday themed Winterfest has been the Friends of Portsmouth signature event, running through the Christmas season bringing lots of decorations to include a huge Christmas tree, a temporary skating rink and other festive trimmings to Market Square.
The event also featured a successful breaking of the world’s record for the most persons simultaneously Christmas caroling.
In the past, Rutman said his group is declining to release how much money Winterfest may have raised through skating fees and other activities such as the retail village and souvenir store set up on Market Square. Rutman did say a very rough estimate would put the number of skaters who used the temporary rink at around 8,000.