Developers break ground on hotel, retail project in New Hampshire

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Two major development projects are bringing hundreds of jobs to New Hampshire.

Ground was broken Thursday on a hotel and shopping center in Portsmouth that developers said will create 200 construction jobs. And in Salem, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a redevelopment project featuring a new Lowe's home improvement store expected to hire 120 employees.

The Parade Office Mall in Portsmouth is being demolished to make way for the new project. Developers said the 1970s-era building isn't likely to be missed.

"This has been deemed the ugliest building in Portsmouth and some say the ugliest building in New Hampshire," said developer Jeff Johnston.

Johnston said getting the architectural eyesore out of the way and building a 128-room Residence Inn is Phase 1 of the project.

"There are two more phases that will include residences, more retail and two office buildings," he said.

The project is a rare investment during a recession that has struck at the heart of real estate development. Its construction should employ more than 200, while the hotel is expected to generate 75 full-time jobs.

"By virtue of this building coming down and a new project going forward, we think it's going to jumpstart a lot of activity in this northern tier of the city," said city manager John Bohenko.

In Salem, owners of the Stateline Shopping Center on Route 28 announced their own redevelopment project.

"Many developers are looking at their own properties for redevelopment, and when we have a chance to bring in a Lowe's, it's a great chance to develop a center and create some new energy at a center like this," said David Fleming of WS Development.

Fleming said the company's strategy of "hold and build" is making possible a large scale, downturn-defying investment that will bring 120 new jobs and $2 million in road improvements to Route 28.

The hotel in Portsmouth is expected to be done by this time next year, while the Lowe's redevelopment is set for completion in fall of 2010.

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