Inspiration from nearby railroad

PORTSMOUTH – A proposed mixed-use development planned for the corner of Maplewood Avenue and Deer Street has received generally favorable reviews from the city's Historic District Commission.

Developer Thomas Hamilton Balon Jr. is proposing to build the development at 161 Deer St., which will feature commercial and retail space on the first floor with three floors of residential and a penthouse above.

Architect Carla Goodknight, who represented the developer at an HDC meeting earlier this week, said she thought the project was “coming along very well.”

The development team also submitted color renderings to the HDC, including one that showed an aerial view of the city’s rapidly developing North End, where the project is proposed to be located.

Goodknight told the HDC that the aerial view shows the “building fitting into the community, fitting into the site.”

“This property is from the beginning highly influenced by its position against the railroad and having that train station history and industrial architectural precedent in general,” Goodknight said about the Pan Am railroad tracks that run close to the development site.
She described the development’s architectural approach as “transitional industrial style,” and renderings show the building with a mix of brick and metal elements.

Balon’s proposed development is located where Deer Street Associates (DSA) had proposed building one of four mixed-use projects in cooperation with the city, but none of the projects have broken ground.

DSA sold the city the land for the new Foundry Place Garage, which opened in 2018.

Balon bought the property at 161 Deer St. in November, which was previously known as Lot 5 of the DSA proposals.

He previously told the board the average size of the 19 proposed residential units in the project will be 2,400 square feet, and will be either apartments or condominiums.

City Councilor Rich Blalock, who also serves on the HDC, complimented the development team for “the fact you can’t see the penthouse.”

“I like the fact that it’s hidden,” he said.

He also said he liked the combination of brick and metal proposed for the development and said “the metal incorporates the railroad tracks very nicely.”

Commissioner David Adams said he thought the canopy on the building was “a little thin,” but stated that overall “this is a wonderful looking building.”

HDC Chair John Wyckoff told the development team he agreed with “everything I’ve heard.”
“I feel the sizing and everything seems to be heading in a good direction,” he said during this week’s HDC work session meeting at City Hall.

The board voted to continue its review of the project at next month’s meeting.

The project will also have to be reviewed and approved by the city’s Planning Board.