PORTSMOUTH — City officials completed the $10 million purchase of the 34-acre community campus building and land on Monday.
Mayor Deaglan McEachern said city officials are “excited to move forward” with the purchase of the 72,000-square-foot community campus facility and surrounding property off of Route 1 and Campus Drive near West Road.
“It’s 34 acres, it’s a big deal in itself, and it gives us the kind of flexibility to really envision a better future both there and potentially in town,” McEachern said Monday.
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As an example, he cited Robert J. Lister Academy, which is located near Sherburne Road and is home to a small group of high school students who have been identified as “at-risk teens,” according to the website. school.
“Could you potentially serve these kids better at the community campus, which would open up another building?” he said.
McEachern described the purchase of the community campus property as “a real big deal for the city. There’s a lot of things that can go there.”
McEachern acknowledged that he is sure one option that will be discussed is to use part of the property to create affordable housing.
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“It’s part of a discussion that we always have is how to make it affordable for the next generation to grow up and stay in Portsmouth,” McEachern said.
The sale price includes the 34 acres of land and the building, according to City Manager Karen Conard.
Non-profit organizations will remain at the community campus
The city and Coastal Health Foundationwho sold the property to the city, agreed that the sale will ensure that the community campus will continue to support current nonprofit tenants and the services they provide, and will remain accessible to residents of the Seacoast area.
Tenants include Seacoast Community School, Child Advocacy Centre, Portsmouth Adult Basic Education Program and Krempels Centre.
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“The Community Campus is a unique property, and this acquisition represents a generational opportunity for the City to acquire both a functional building whose tenants already serve our residents and significant land adjacent to existing City facilities, including the new sports field,” Connard said. “The purchase gives us the ability to expand educational, recreational and community support assets that are in ever-increasing demand. Given the size of the parcel, it is unlikely that an opportunity for the city to make such an acquisition will arise again.
Debra Grabowski, CEO of the Foundation for Seacoast Health, said, “This transaction has been a long time coming for the foundation.
“We were looking for a win/win arrangement that would allow the foundation to fulfill our mission to improve the health and well-being of Seacoast residents in a more meaningful way, while ensuring that the original vision as a multi-tenant home for non-profit organizations continues,” she said. “The sale of Community Campus to the City of Portsmouth achieves both of these objectives, and we are very pleased with the outcome.”
The environmental issue must be addressed
As part of the closing process, the city was to withhold $200,000 of the $10 million purchase price to address “an environmental issue at the site that needs to be addressed,” the city attorney said Friday. , Robert Sullivan.
He explained that there has already been some impact on the land the city is buying from “an auto wrecking operation on nearby property.”
“He crossed the line on the property,” Sullivan added.
The city will use whatever is needed of the $200,000 “to address this environmental issue,” Sullivan said.
McEachern pointed out that the city had done its “due diligence” prior to the sale to conduct an environmental investigation of the site, and now has the much-needed money “to fix any issues there.”
Vision for the future of the community campus a work in progress
Post-closing, “the hardest part will be trying to align with a vision of use” for the property, McEachern said.
“But first and foremost, I think it’s the continuation of the mission that’s out there now in terms of Seacoast Community School,” he said.
The school is a community-campus early learning and child care center, which has “developed a huge community there,” McEachern said. “There isn’t a working or non-working parent who doesn’t understand the importance of continuing childcare there.”
Due to the amount of land included in the purchase, the area could also be used “potentially to develop recreational uses,” the mayor said.
He spoke about the importance of hearing from the public in terms of the use of the property and creating a vision for the site.
“It’s something that could be done even in 15 years,” he said. “We were waiting for the closure, but in the coming weeks we will try to define our plan for the first phases.”
He stressed that the city’s efforts to create a vision for the good will be comprehensive.
“We’re not going to be rolling back a backhoe anytime soon,” he added.