Plan NH has a vision of healthy and vibrant communities across the state. Because we believe that what, how and where we build influences that health and vibrancy, our mission is to “foster excellence in planning, design and development of New Hampshire’s built environment.”
We do so by being champions of Smart Growth and Livability Principles, of the Triple Bottom Line (social, environmental and economic) as well as creative approaches to collaboration and cooperation.
One way we do this is through our annual Merit Awards program, in which we recognize and showcase outstanding projects that reflect the mission and values of Plan NH, and that demonstrate how the built environment can make a positive contribution to people and places.
Each spring, Plan NH calls for nominations for this Award. Submissions are reviewed by a jury of diverse professionals from across the state.
The 2021 Merit Awards were announced at an event on July 21, 2021, held at The Hotel Concord and shared via Zoom.
Keene’s Magical Mystery Tour Project
Plan NH Merit Award of Honor 2021
2021 Merit Award of Excellence Projects
Owner: judy rodgers & Peter poanessa
Magical History Tour, Keene
The “Magical History Tour” is a project that established 16 professionally painted murals throughout the downtown of Keene that tell thought-provoking, meaningful, and celebratory stories about Keene’s history and heritage. The possibility of this project hinged on attracting the famed “Walldogs,” a group of highly skilled sign painters and mural artists, to hold one of their annual meets in Keene. The local organizers set out to bring this event to Keene for their community to rediscover its local history and to use public art as a catalyst for reinvigorating vitality in the downtown. This community-led project, with a Keene Walldogs Headquarters in a vacant storefront space on Main Street, involved over 1,000 participants, a team of local historians, and raised hundreds of thousands of private dollars. The 16 mural subjects are engaging and interconnected, creating a link between one mural and another; a conversational path through the streets.
There is no real owner of this project, a result of hundreds of volunteers across the City of Keene.
- Perfect score!
- Amazing! I was blown away by the uniqueness of this project
- Out of the park! This one stole the show
- Incredible collaboration!
- This nailed every element we were looking for. Brought people together from all over the city, of all ages, talking about history and conservation. Open space. Inclusivity. Civil rights.
Owner: the society of protection of nh forests
Carey Cottage at Creek Farm, Portsmouth
A storied history as a cultural gathering place, Carey Cottage is one of a few remaining Arts and Crafts-style summer cottages on the New Hampshire Seacoast. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the 38-room home became a summer arts colony, drawing prominent writers, artists, musicians, architects, and historians. Russian and Japanese delegations were welcomed by the owner, Arthur Astor Carey and his wife, Agnes, during the Portsmouth Peace Treaty. Slated for demolition in 2019, an innovative partnership between a local philanthropist and a developer, encouraged by a “Save Carey Cottage” campaign kept it open, saving this hidden gem. Currently, the cottage houses seven nonprofit tenants each with social service, environmental, or cultural missions, creating economies of space and opportunities for sharing knowledge. Local materials and artisans were employed during renovations. The original music room is restored intact for use as a gathering space for both tenants and the greater community. Carey Cottage’s public spaces and nonprofit work areas are designed for inclusivity and accessibility and there is easy access to water views, a beach, and hiking trails.
- Renovation of an historic structure that otherwise was going to be demolished
- A great re-use! Seven non-profits and affordable housing
- Terrific public support to save this building, including financing from an anonymous donor
- Great that there is access to trails, water and more
Owner: colonial theater
Acquiring and renovating an adjacent old auto showroom from around the 1920’s, The Maine Street Colonial Theater in Keene was able to provide a ‘right sized’ flexible theater space to invigorate the public spaces that will enliven Keene’s Art Corridor. The anticipation of the new theater’s opening has had a positive uplifting impact on the community.
Architecturally, the existing 18” deep wide flange steel frame structure within the Showroom was reused to set a post-industrial steel beam aesthetic that feels robust, young, and active, and accommodates the needs of all ages and a range of cultural interests from hip-hop to refined MetLive performances in comfortable seats.
- Adding an arts and music venue is critical to the vibrancy of the downtown
- Great re-use of a building – and has lots of ways it can be used due to physical flexibility
- Remarkable from a design standpoint
Owner: Town of newport
Newport Opera House & Court Building
The combined Newport Opera House and Court Building sits prominently on Main Street. In order to continue to offer shows in the Opera House and provide a place for community events, a restoration was needed. A historic assessment of the building, and a LCHIP grant, led to a new roof and restoration of the steeple. All of the historic stained-glass windows were restored and reinstalled. With the replacement of the Opera House floor, sound attenuation allows the hall to be used when court is in session. By renovating and creating an accessible space, available to all, people now gather for community events, Opera House shows, as well as high school graduations. This project has had a positive impact on the residents and businesses of Newport, creating a social hub for the town, and encouraging this close-knit community to enjoy being downtown.
- Rehabilitation of significant downtown building to its original intent
- “started realizing that taking a building like this and making it better is a very brave thing to do – easier to build a metal building down the street”
- This should be a great catalyst for Newport
- A good project!
A call for nominations will go out in early March 2022, and will be due in May
How Does it Work
Plan NH believes that what we build, where we build, and how we build influences the health and vibrancy of the community. One part of our mission is to show how that works – to our New Hampshire communities, and to the planners, designers and builders who shape them.
The annual Plan NH Merit Awards Program is one way we do this. The Awards recognize New Hampshire projects that have a positive influence on a community or neighborhood, incorporate Smart Growth and Livability principles, social responsibility, and/or creative approaches to collaboration and cooperation.
Submitted nominations are reviewed by a Committee of diverse professionals, and outstanding projects are selected to receive an Award