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Friday, May 30, 2014

New Episode: "What's Up With the Marting's Property?"

Welcome to the latest episode in the continuing series of the Portsmouth City Council sitcom "What's Up With The Marting's Property?" The latest installment features a spicy development that reveals Council giving first reading to an ordinance calling for City Manager Derek Allen to advertise for the "possible" sale of the Babcock Building at 720-722 Sixth Street.

Now, remember some City Fathers believe this parcel of the property is "perhaps" rich ground for a parking lot should the major old department store structure ever sell.

Councilman Jim Kalb eloquently objected to the sale, saying, “I just think that shame on us for not taking care of our property.”

But, City Councilman Rich Saddler, speaking for the Parks, Recreation, Service, Buildings & Cultural Committee, offered a different view. “In certain instances where there is proposed development happening or going to happen or something like that, yes, I can see keeping that (Babcock) property,” he said. Saddler is of the opinion that the city owns too much property and needs to be free from the liability of owning the real estate.

Then, Saddler offered this startling view to the future:

“This particular piece of property, there is no development going on. I know it has been talked about, keeping that for parking for the Marting’s building. It has been how many years? Ten years? 12 years? Nothing is going to happen with that building. And if this Babcock building goes through, the next on my committee’s list is, guess what, the Marting’s building, to get rid of it as well.”

Third Ward Councilman Kevin E. Johnson seemed to be unsure of the department store parcel sale as he expressed his views.

Johnson said, “I would agree with you and us having property if we had a better track record. But I’d have to think about the Marting’s building. I’d have to think about the Adelphia building. And we could go on and on. I just don’t think that we, as a city, are in a position to keep these buildings maintained. And, if we’re not, then I’d rather let go of them and perhaps someone do something with the buildings.”

(Frank Lewis. City Considers Selling the Marting’s Building. 
Portsmouth Daily Times. May 29, 2014)

The possibility, the speculation, the guessing, the shame, the much-required thinking and acting... it's all almost too much to bear! After all, the residents of Portsmouth have invested significant resources in this grand old property that has graced and disgraced our main street as a monument to past retail glory and a modern debacle of urban decay. 

Review of the Latest 

Let's put this in perspective for those who still seem to be in a quandary about "What's Up?"

1. It looks as if the old, decaying Babcock Building is headed for "possible" sale. Asking price undetermined.

2. The Babcock property could be a parking lot if someone bought the crumbling Marting's Department Store structure, both properties the city has owned since 2002 for a reported price of $1,999,990.

3. No actual development of properties is going on now. (Or, for that matter, ever has.) And, most councilmen feel nothing will ever happen. Maintenance is costly, but some councilmen feel muddle-headed speculation is worth the expensive upkeep and the stagnant ownership and wish to watch the buildings continue to disintegrate.

4. A doubtfully optimistic Parks, Recreation, Service, Buildings & Cultural Committee of City Council is also considering a projected "possible" sale of the Marting's Department Store building, which may or may not be suitable for occupation. Asking price undetermined.

5. All councilmen seem to agree that Portsmouth City Council has a "poor track record" with property it owns. This is the singular point of agreement that holds promise of wretched continuation.

6. One councilman thinks it's a shame he and his fellows can't take care of the city's costly albatross he helped obtain.

7. Another councilman believes merely "thinking" about the city-owned real estate may result in a miraculous solution to the problems although "doing something" or "not doing something" with the buildings seems to be an insoluble dilemma.

8. Meanwhile, the majority of the public believes it has exhausted all "thinking" and all patience. These citizens remember the May 2006 referendum and the belief that they had blocked renovation to the properties while refusing to support a scheme that was designed to unload a 100-plus-year-old white elephant.

9. Stay tuned. There seems to be no end in sight for the continuing saga of scandal, politics, and intrigue. For now, that's all, folks. Continue to think and to question until further notice.

For a thorough history, click here and you will be more "up to speed":

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