You’d think that our local Chamber of Commerce– whose fortunes ride on marketing the charms of historic Portsmouth– would understand the difference between wood and plastic.
So folks were startled to see Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce President Doug Bates fighting for HDC permission to replace cedar shingles with vinyl on three sides of the Chamber’s soon-to-be renovated building. “What does our Chamber stand for – who are they?” asked a stunned observer. “Who do they represent? Don’t they understand why the city’s Historic District brings in tourist bucks? They want to replace real wood (a significant part of the NH economy) with plastic (where does that come from?) at a major Gateway to Portsmouth?”
The HDC is the final guardian of the fragile character of this historic city. During a rehearing of the plastic vs. wood issue last week, plastic lost 7-2. Only HDC members John Wyckoff and HDC chairman Joseph Almeida (who has also openly advocated for more massive buildings in the Historic District) argued that they saw little difference between the two. As the rest of the HDC noted, the Chamber headquarters on Nobles Island sits in one of the most highly visible locations at the entrance of Portsmouth’s Historic District, it’s a tourist magnet and a visitors center few drivers into Portsmouth can ignore, and a period “modern” 1980’s style building– in the Historic District– originally designed to be cedar-shingled. So why fight to coat it with plastic?
The Chamber has been pushing the issue since December. You’ll find the latest wood vs. plastic debate starting around 25 mins :