PORTSMOUTH — The Historic District Commission overwhelmingly approved the addition of a rooftop deck/bar to an already approved five-story AC Hotel on Vaughan Street.
The HDC delayed making a decision on the request to add a rooftop deck to the hotel at its November hearing, after several commissioners raised concerns about the massing of the addition.
Jeff Johnston, developer of the project and principal of Cathartes Private Investments, appeared before the HDC Wednesday with architect Carla Goodknight, who presented design changes for the rooftop deck, most notably increasing its setback from the street.
The deck will be atop the hotel’s third story as it steps down on the side next to 3S Artspace, according to plans filed by the city. HDC Chairman Vince Lombardi said he liked what had been proposed as the initial step-down to 3S Artspace, which is next to the hotel property.
“I think that was a very good thing to do,” he said Wednesday, but added “the idea of a public space on top of this building though is I think a real asset to the city. It’s going to draw people there.”
Commissioner Richard Shea said “the massing is better” since the redesign of the rooftop deck was completed. He added the project is “still a big structure, still a big box.”
“A lot of people are going to enjoy this when it opens and people are going to work there,” he said.
HDC member and City Councilor Nancy Pearson said she liked the step-down of the hotel as it approached the 3S Artspace building in the initial plan. But Pearson supported the project, she said, “because I think ultimately the space that you’re creating is a missing piece in Portsmouth and I think people are going to love it. I’m sure it will be a great addition to the North End.”
HDC member Reagan Ruedig, who cast the lone vote against approving the rooftop deck, said it “adds too much busyness.” “You have a very simple contemporary clean cut building and you’re adding a bunch of little stuff to the top that is fussing it up and is not keeping those clean, straight lines,” she said.
Ruedig supports the idea of a rooftop bar, but maintained in this case it “doesn’t work and it doesn’t speak to its surroundings.”
The project will 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.
As part of the project, Cathartes agreed to give the city a nearly-one acre waterfront community park along North Mill Pond, create a pedestrian walkway to the park and donate $100,000 for the creation of the park. It 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.