Bill Binnie surprised some at a public hearing in Portsmouth Wednesday by proposing a new redevelopment plan for the federal McIntyre building.
Over 100 residents attended the public hearing discuss the site's future.
Councilors called the hearing in response to a petition from a group called Revisit McIntyre, which is critical of the redevelopment plan. That petition gathered over 600 approved signatures.
Binnie, of Carlisle Capital Corp. and Binnie Media, is a former U.S. Senate candidate and owner of the Wentworth by the Sea Country Club. He said his proposed McIntyre plan would keep the downtown post office, include 200-300 parking spaces, eliminate the proposed luxury apartments, and add retail and restaurant space. Some members of the Revisit McIntyre group supported that plan.
“Our company and our team is willing to volunteer to do a development here because it’s in the best interest of this community…I know exactly what to do here, it’s easy. It is physically easy to do,” Binnie said.
Binnie said his company’s project would match the economics of the Redgate/Kane proposal, the current developer that Portsmouth has been working with for 18 months. Since the city of Portsmouth would acquire the McIntyre site through the Historical Surplus Property program, redevelopment would be paid for through that federal grant and would come at no cost to the city.
After the meeting, Assistant Mayor Cliff Lazenby said it was the first he’d ever heard of Binnie's proposal and that it’s come too late in the planning process.
“You like to have a little time to research, and see what’s going on. [We] haven’t had any time to do any of that because, you know, we heard a 5-10 minute verbal expression from a developer,” Lazenby said.
Dylan Binnie of Carlisle Capital confirmed Thursday that the company is serious about their proposal and has a meeting with the city next week. He declined to comment further.
SeacoastOnline reported Thursday that Portsmouth Mayor Jack Blalock will "listen to what [Binnie] has to say" at a meeting with Binnie's firm next week.
Members of Revisit McIntyre have criticized the city's current redevelopment plan, saying it will lead to a loss of parking, city views and the downtown post office. Many Revisit McIntyre members endoresd Binnie's new plan after hearing of it for the first time at Wednesday's hearing.
Danielle Leigh, a member of Revisit McIntyre, addressed an issue that she said has gone unnoticed by the city council: the 9/11 memorial tree located at the McIntyre site. That tree would be relocated under the city’s current plan.
“I feel [this issue] epitomized what this entire project is lacking and has been from the beginning, and that is a general lack of overall sensitivity,” she said. “It’s quite upsetting to me. I’m a veteran of the United States Air Force…and I witnessed the second plane hit in real time.”
The city council voted the petition down, meaning it will go through with a vote to acquire the McIntyre property through the federal grant program on August 12.