Newest Hotel Receives Final Portsmouth Approval

By Jeff McMenemy

Posted Jun 16, 2017 at 5:08 PM

PORTSMOUTH — The Planning Board unanimously approved a five story, 143-room hotel next to 3S Artspace in the city’s North End.

The vote Thursday night on the AC Hotel project, which includes a nearly one-acre community waterfront park along North Mill Pond that will be deeded to the city, marks final approval it needs before construction can begin.

The board also unanimously approved a conditional use permit for developer Cathartes Private Investments, which allows the hotel project to have a 40,000-square-foot building footprint where 20,000 is normally allowed. One of the ways to get the conditional use permit is by creating community space under the city’s zoning. The hotel will also include a restaurant and outdoor café.

Paul Young, spokesman for Jeff Johnston, principal of Cathartes, said “obviously we’re very happy with the vote.”

“The people of Portsmouth will now have a new waterfront park, which is going to be great, along with a very hip, European-style AC Hotel that attracts entrepreneurs and creative people,” he said Friday.

The $15 million to $20 million project will create 50 permanent hotel jobs and 200 construction jobs, Young said Thursday. The project is being proposed to be built at 299 and 225 Vaughan St., in what is now a parking lot and an auto parts business. The plan calls for demolishing the existing structures and building an AC Hotel there, which will have on-site valet parking spots.

In addition to giving the land for the waterfront park along North Mill pond to the city, the developer also agreed to create a pedestrian walkway to the park and donate $100,000 for the creation of the park, according to Young and city documents.

Cathartes also agreed to donate $15,000 to Art-Speak for the city’s cultural commission to create a public art project in the community space, Young said.

Portsmouth officials have been able to entice developers of large projects to make donations to the city as they move through the land-use board review process.

Chris Thompson, developer of North End Portsmouth, agreed to donate $25,000 for the creation of a roundabout on Market Street and $25,000 toward the restoration of the nearby North Cemetery.

Johnston praised the work of city staff and land-use board officials on the project.

“They made a good project even better and had the foresight to develop the public space in a way that’s going to make it a wonderful community asset for the people of Portsmouth,” he said Friday.

Construction on the hotel should begin in spring of 2018 with the hotel opening the following spring, Young said.