West End Yards project gains final site plan approval
Development will feature 250 apartments, townhomes, commercial space and more
By Jeff McMenemy
PORTSMOUTH – The Planning Board voted Thursday night to give developers final site plan approval for the huge mixed-use project “West End Yards.”
The development, which will be built on what is now about 12 empty acres off the Route 1 Bypass, will feature 250 apartments – 27 of which will be rented at work-force housing rates - 23 townhomes, a public dog park, commercial and office space and a beer and food hall.
Jay Bisognano, one of the developers, told Planning Board members Thursday night that his team had completed “full financing” on the project and can start construction “immediately” after getting final approval on the project.
Developers worked with city staff and land-use boards during the past 20 months to come up with what he called “a thoughtful and transformative development.”
The project also includes a land swap – which the City Council previously approved – which will allow the city to create a long sought-after Cate Street connector road.
The Cate Street Connector, when built, will ultimately “provide direct access between Bartlett Street to the Borthwick Avenue traffic signal on the Route 1 Bypass,” City Manager John Bohenko said previously.
“At the Bartlett Street end, the proposed road would follow the existing Cate Street right-of-way for approximately 250 feet and then travel across what is currently
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private property to connect to the Bypass,” Bohenko said.
Bisognano referenced the connector road during the board’s hearing in City Council Chambers and said developers have agreed to pay half its cost.
Portsmouth attorney John Bosen, who represents the developers, told the Planning Board that the team has “been hard at work on this project since 2017.”
He invited board members to “take a step back and kind of appreciate what this project is bringing to the city.”
West End Yards, Bosen said, will “transform what was once a fairly blighted area of Portsmouth into something very positive.”
The development is located off the Route 1 Bypass Northbound on what used to be the Frank Jones Center.
The 27 work-force housing units represent the “single largest work-force housing project by a private developer in the city,” Bosen added.
The project will also include 529 parking spaces, and open space throughout the development.
The two 4-story apartment buildings will have 132 units and 118 units, respectively. Retail space at the front of the property near the bypass will include a restaurant, cafe and food and beer hall, according to the developer’s plans. Planning Director Juliet Walker acknowledged in her memo to the board that the project likely will cause more traffic back-ups in the area.
“Recognizing that growth and development will likely continue in this area of the city, staff recommends that the city undertake a study to identify and recommend future capital investments at this location,” Walker said. “Staff recommends that West End Yards project should contribute a fair share contribution to fund the study approximately equal to the project’s anticipated proportion of project-generated traffic at this location. The estimated cost of the study is $100,000 and the project-generated traffic at this location is projected to be approximately 20% of the overall future traffic growth.”
Developers agreed to make that contribution as part of the site plan approval.
Planning Board Chair Dexter Legg told developers he appreciated “the applicants and the team for working diligently with the city and boards.”
“We have a great project here that you guys can be proud of and I know the city can be proud of,” he said.