“Dream Build Live here”
Unveiled as Portsmouth’s new slogan, the above phrase seemed to be the major theme as the community group Friends of Portsmouth held a highly advertised pep rally/press conference on a rainy Thursday afternoon on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Portsmouth.
The purpose of the event was to highlight what community, government and civic leaders see as Portsmouth’s progress, past, present and future, a deliberate attempt to combat what has been a rash of bad press, including highly negative articles in a Cincinnati newspaper as well as USA Today.
Host and local ophthalmologist Mike Raies told the crowd pessimism about Portsmouth is actually nothing new.
“This is our response to decades of negativity,” Raies said.
It may depend on your point of view as to which of the announcements made Thursday is the most important or likely the most impactful. It seems safe to argue the arrival of a seven-story hotel in the middle of downtown Portsmouth will certainly be the hardest to miss. However, some undoubtedly will be excited about the return of speedboat racing to the Ohio River for the first time since 2013.
Speaking to the Daily Times Wednesday, local entrepreneur Ed Newsome said he has been working on the hotel project for roughly 2 1/2 years. What’s been dubbed the Brighter Vision Group, LP, is a development group formed to construct the hotel south of Third Street at the corner of its intersection with Washington Street to the east and Second Street to the south. The building will face east, meaning it will face Shawnee State University.
Does Portsmouth actually attract enough out-of-town visitors to support a brand-new seven-story hotel? Newsome stated Brighter Vision had conducted extensive feasibility studies and he and other investors are fully convinced the potential exists. He added Portsmouth had “been on the radar” of a national hotel chain. Significantly, Newsome said the Brighter Vision studies show the already existing Holiday Inn, which basically sits across the street from the site of the new hotel, maintaining its current level of business.
The new hotel actually will be a combination of two national hotel chains, Sleep Inn and MainStay Suites. The latter is an extended stay hotel, with added amenities such as fully equipped kitchens in each room. The combined hotels will have a total of 77 rooms: 35 MainStay rooms and 42 Sleep Inn rooms.
Newsome said he was not certain, but he believes the new building may be the tallest in Portsmouth. It is the first new hotel in town in 60 years. Newsome declined to reveal the price of the project but said he believes it to be easily the largest retail investment in Portsmouth in many years.
Some surveyor work and other similar undertakings already are underway at the site of the new building. Newsome said building could begin in earnest sometime next month, with a weather dependent construction time of eight to 10 months to follow. Brighter Vision intends to use a somewhat unique or at least newfangled approach to construction.
Newsome talked about bringing in prefabricated concrete units which will be built up into the finished building. He stated the construction method results in a building that is up to 90 percent energy efficient. According to Newsome, the individual concrete units are sometimes used as severe weather shelters in southern states.
According to Newsome, some other developments coming Portsmouth’s way were dependent upon construction of a new hotel. It seems safe to assume the return of speedboat racing to the Ohio River on Labor Day weekend, in conjunction with the city’s long-running River Days, which launched in 1962, is one of those developments.
The speedboat race apparently has been dubbed the Race on the River. The Breakwater Powerboat Association, an American Powerboat Association sanctioned race club, will present the races in conjunction with the Friends of Portsmouth, the City of Portsmouth and other local sponsors.
According to promotional materials provided by the Friends of Portsmouth, boats can reach speeds in excess of 120 mph. Those boats will compete close to the shore, while floating spectator fleets will allow for optimal viewing. Each racing team consists of a minimum of four people, including the solitary driver who must wear an oxygen mask during the race.
Again, according to information provided the Daily Times, teams will begin arriving at the venue the Friday afternoon before the races. Saturday is reserved for registration and testing, while competitive racing will begin Sunday morning and end Monday afternoon.
In years past, river racing took place during the day, while River Days events took place in the evenings of the Labor Day weekend.
The return of racing to Portsmouth could mean big dollars for the local economy. The direct economic impact of individual Outboard Performance Craft races was estimated at between $1.1 million and $2.2 million.
One last big announcement given at the rally was a May 25 performance at Shawnee State University’s Riffe Center of the rising country/pop group King Calaway, which just happens to feature Minford native Caleb Miller, who informed the rally crowd he will graduate from Minford High School this year. Local artist Shane Runyon who currently has a top 40 hit will open for the group. Tickets were slated to go on sale immediately.
Consisting of six artists, the King Calaway joined forces in 2018 and already has reached some musical heights. The Friends of Portsmouth’s Jeremy Burnside talked about the group opening for Garth Brooks. In March, they hit a musical milestone after being invited to perform at the legendary Grand Ole’ Opry.
“We’re all over the world, but we all had mutual friends that brought us together,” Caleb told the Times following the group’s Grand Ole’ Opry debut. “Actually, I was discovered by a man named Jason Halbert, who is Kelly Clarkson’s music director, and he saw me on Instagram.”
One other big topic at the rally was the arrival of a major push to rebrand Portsmouth with the “Dream, Build, Live here” slogan.
“The branding was a product of a two-day summit titled ‘Rethinking Downtown Portsmouth,’” said Maddie Burnside, local real estate broker and member of the summit’s branding committee. That summit was called together last month by the charitable Scioto Foundation.
Among presumably plenty of other places, the still new slogan will be featured on banners set to appear in the near future in downtown Portsmouth and Boneyfiddle.
The Friends of Portsmouth also took the opportunity to outline what they view as roughly 10 positive things happenings in the city in the last year, some the direct result of the community group’s efforts.
Among the undertakings mentioned was last summer’s Plant Portsmouth, which saw volunteers clean up downtown and Boneyfiddle, as well as set the first of two Portsmouth world records, the first one being the largest number of persons simultaneously potting plants. The city’s second world record arrived just in time for Christmas during the Friends’ inaugural Winterfest. This time, visitors set a record for the greatest number of people Christmas caroling. Portsmouth may be home to yet a third world record in the near future.
During Thursday’s rally, Friends Executive Director Tim Wolfe said the group wanted to set still a third world record. With the help of flood wall mural caretakers Portsmouth Murals Inc., plans are to add yet another mural to the inside of the flood wall, this time commemorating River Days. Wolfe said the mural will be a paint-by-numbers type of undertaking, with the public invited to fill in up to 2,000 squares. The current world record is, according to Wolfe, 1,300 squares.
Other local happenings, past and future, were mentioned by representatives of Shawnee State University, Main Street Portsmouth and others.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370- 0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.