“I wouldn’t ever want to change the charm and the feel of Portsmouth; we must not bite that hand that feeds. But I believe whole-heartedly that we can honor our historic past and still embrace the 21st century.”
As part of an ongoing Portsmouth City Council Candidate Q&A in my weekly PortsmouthLOVE Letter, I’ve reached out to all candidates in the 2015 City Council race with some questions. I’m including the answers of all who participated here on my website, in addition to featuring them in my weekly newsletter throughout the month of October, leading up to Election Day, November 3rd. For information on voting, visit the City of Portsmouth, NH’s website.
Nancy Pearson, City Council Candidate
How do you view the balance of arts & culture with business & economic growth in our city?
They are all connected. From architecture and visual arts to a robust performing arts scene and maritime history, Portsmouth’s arts, culture and history are a driving force in its continued growth and success. With an annual economic impact of more than $41.5 million dollars, arts and culture are interconnected with every facet of the city; parking, affordable housing, transportation, education, retail, dining, employee recruitment, city planning, economic development, tourism and more. Most people that I talk to seem to understand the contributions that arts and culture add to the local economy and vice versa.
What’s your favorite thing about the city of Portsmouth?
Portsmouth has a distinct personality. You can feel it on the streets. Part of it is the fact that there is almost 400 years of history embedded into the sidewalks and buildings, and part of it is the many dichotomies of Portsmouth: It’s gritty and beautiful. It’s stunningly beautiful in the summer and almost unbearable in the winter. It’s a working port and an arts mecca. It has saloons and wine bars. Essentially, Portsmouth has a little something for everyone.
Does the city motto “The City of the Open Door” resonate with you — and if so, how?
Actually it does. This is a very friendly city. Strangers say hello on the street. People are very helpful and courteous to visitors and residents alike. The person-to-person interactions are extraordinary. I have never lived in a friendlier, more approachable city. Even when I didn’t live here I felt I belonged. Once we get our bridges, overpasses and parking garage constructed, it will be much easier for everyone to get into the downtown areas and enjoy all we have to offer. I know there are some who say that we have experienced too much change and this isn’t the Portsmouth they remember, or Portsmouth has lost its charm. I don’t subscribe to that sentiment. Portsmouth is a living growing city but it continues to maintain a distinct personality. People are still flocking here, so we must be getting something right.
Is our city big enough, or does it have room to grow?
We absolutely have room to grow. I was so hearted by Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Robert Campbell’s talk this month. He made an interesting case for density done right, and illustrated the positive aspects of layering a city with new and old buildings. I hope attendees walked away from that talk a little more comfortable with modern design concepts. If we’re serious about economic diversity and affordable housing options, we have to think creatively and approach development projects with an open mind.
If you had your way, how would our city look in 10 years? In what ways would it differ from present-day Portsmouth?
I wouldn’t ever want to change the charm and the feel of Portsmouth; we must not bite that hand that feeds. But I believe whole-heartedly that we can honor our historic past and still embrace the 21st century. I’m so grateful that groups like PS21 offer educational and insightful talks for the community to broaden our notion of what makes a great city and help us all move in the same direction. I am excited for the future of Portsmouth and hope that it includes a diverse selection of buildings, housing and parking and transportation options. Through innovation, creativity and a critical eye, Portsmouth can continue to be an enviable example of a modern historic city.