The Portsmouth city council postponed a vote Monday night to propose a plan to the National Parks Service that would hand the federal McIntyre property over to the city. Councilors will take it up at their meeting on Aug. 12.
The city plans to apply to obtain the property through the Historical Surplus Property Program, which would grant the property to Portsmouth at no cost. It would establish two new buildings on the property, in addition to the McIntyre building, that would be developed into luxury apartments and commercial space.
More than 50 residents attended a public listening session before the meeting to express disagreement about the proposed plan. Many expressed concerns over the removal of the post office from downtown.
Danielle Leigh is a resident involved with the group Revisit McIntyre, which organized a petition against the proposed project. She works in Kittery, Maine, but said she moved to Portsmouth because of the post office located centrally downtown. She sees the McIntyre site as “the heart of Portsmouth,” she says.
“We have these big brick buildings, not historical, on the outskirts of Portsmouth, and now it’s like they want to bring them to the historic downtown part of Portsmouth, and that’s gonna change everything,” Leigh said after the open dialogue Monday.
Portsmouth residents who attended the meeting also said the city council had too much control over the project, and questioned why the city didn’t purchase the property itself.
Council members said that residents had plenty of opportunities to be involved with the process, that Portsmouth taxpayers have expressed that they didn’t want the burden of paying for the redevelopment of the property, and that the project owuld only bring financial gain to the city.
The council also voted to have a public listening session on the Revisit McIntyre petition– which gained 601 approved signatures – on July 31.