Portsmouth planning new waterfront development at Portside

(Brandi Cummings/WAVY Photo)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — City leaders plan to breathe new life into an area where they see a lot of opportunity.

It was once a bustling part of downtown Portsmouth and the center of many events. But right now, Portside is just a grassy area near Crawford Street close to the ferry dock. One day, though, it could be a hot spot for vendors and tourists.

“We’re so excited,” Portsmouth City Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas said.

Psimas said plans to revitalize the land have been in the works for more than a year. There’s now money allocated in the 2017 fiscal year budget for a new project.

Document: Plan for new Portside project

“It’s a great spot when you come off the ferry, you want to stop and get a sandwich stop and get a Coke, stop and chat with friends,” she said.

The new Portside would be a 5,000 square foot open air pavilion on the half acre site. Part of the plans includes having three enclosed vendor spaces with places for tables and chairs.

It is a welcomed attraction for Mermaids Porch Bed and Breakfast owner Dawn Richardson.

“I think if we had something that would draw people more frequently, more regularly, that they could count on that it would really help this part of town,” Richardson said.

Alan Flanders’ home sits across the street from Portside.

“It’s a new beginning, hopefully,” he said.

Flanders also likes the idea and doesn’t think parking or noise will be a problem.

“Something like Portside that could offer a diversity of entertainment, perhaps food and other events on the waterfront, would really be great,” Flanders said.

City leaders expect the new Portside to draw in around 85,000 visitors — that could mean an estimated $1 million financial boost.

Right now, the total cost for the new facility is $731,000. The city has applied for a grant to cover part of the cost.

“We’re trying to bring people back to downtown. Come here, get together and go down High Street frankly, buy dinner, spend money,” Psimas.

City council will vote on the budget in two weeks. If they vote to approve the plan, construction can begin in 2018.