The Portsmouth City Council voted Monday night to apply to acquire the downtown McIntyre property, and legally bind the city into a public-private partnership with the developer Redgate/Kane.
The city is applying to the national parks service to acquire the federal property, through a program called the Historic Property Surplus Program. It would allow the Portsmouth to acquire and redevelop the McIntyre site at no cost to the city.
The redevelopment project has been the subject of debate in recent weeks, after the group Revisit McIntyre gained over 600 signatures in a petition against the project, and a public hearing was called on the issue.
The Redgate/Kane proposal calls for two new buildings in addition to the existing McIntyre building, with luxury apartments and retail space to be added to the redeveloped site. Opponents worried that the plan would block city views, take away parking spaces, and displace the post office.
Councilors and Redgate/Kane officials reiterated at the council meeting Monday that it reserved space for the post office to return to the McIntyre building after redevelopment.
At that public hearing, private investor and former U.S. Senate candidate Bill Binnie proposed a new plan for the site on behalf of his company, the Carlisle Capital Corp. Binnie addressed the council and made his pitch for the McIntyre site one more time.
“I’m begging you not to do this deal right now,” Binnie said. “We volunteer to do this. We’re one of the biggest developers in the state. We can do this job handily and easily. We have a track record there’s no Wall Street risk at all. We will put up the funds.”
Binnie officially submitted his plan to the city of Portsmouth last week. It removes the luxury apartments, and adds green space and more than 100 parking spaces.
State Senator Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, endorsed Binnie’s plan and has been a vocal member of Revisit McIntyre.
“I’m very disappointed that there wasn’t further consideration of what seemed to be a proposal that embodied a great deal more of what the community at large wanted,” she said after the vote Monday.
The council also voted to refer Binnie’s plan to the McIntyre subcommittee. Councilors said if their application to acquire the McIntyre site is accepted, changes can still be made to the current Redgate/Kane plan.