Every year the Plan NH Merit Awards recognize and showcase outstanding projects that reflect the mission and values of Plan NH and demonstrate how the built environment can make a positive contribution to people and places. The Merit Award program uplifts those nominated projects that champion Smart Growth and Livability Principles, the Triple Bottom Line (social, environmental and economic), and creative approaches to collaboration and cooperation.
The 2023 nomination period is now over. All submissions were reviewed by a jury of diverse professionals from across the state and award winners were announced at the annual Plan NH Awards Evening that took place on June 28, 2023 at The Hotel Concord.
Read more about the 2023 Awardees here and below.
Rethinking Pleasant Street, City of Claremont
Plan NH Merit Award of Excellence with Honor, 2023
Project Team: City of Claremont, McFarland Johnson, IBI Group, GM2 Associates, B.U.R. Construction
2023 Merit Award of Excellence Projects
The Awards evening took place at The Hotel Concord on June 28, 2023. View the presentation slides here.
Thank you to our 2023 event sponsors: The Hotel Concord, Nathan Wechsler & Company, Stibler Associates, and Resilient Buildings Group.
Owner: City of Berlin
Berlin Riverwalk, Berlin
Constructed in 2022, the Berlin Riverwalk stretches nearly 4,000 feet along the banks of the Androscoggin River, immediately adjacent to Main Street in downtown Berlin. This multi-use path features decorative benches, picnic tables, scenic overlooks, and lighting, as well as handrails, level platforms, ramps, and sections of split rail fencing to create an accessible and safe riverside corridor for people of all ages. Several crosswalks directly connect existing downtown storefronts to the riverwalk, adding to the visibility of this exciting new amenity. Requiring years-long engineering coordination with the NH Department of Environmental Services to protect the Androscoggin River and collaboration with the NH Department of Transportation to ensure accessibility and safety on the riverwalk, and between the riverwalk and Main Street, the Berlin Riverwalk is already a valued community feature enhancing the city’s social, economic, and environmental condition.
Community collaboration was central to this project and resulted in a design that promotes the historical significance of the Androscoggin River and the City of Berlin’s heritage, preserves the character of the river and the viewsheds while removing invasive species, and preserves existing green spaces while also creating both passive and active recreation areas. These design elements include a decommissioned turbine “sculpture” from a local hydroelectric plant, “no mow” zones to reestablish native vegetation, and scenic overlooks that provide seating and gathering spaces for people to observe and experience the river.
- Wonderful addition to the City of Berlin.
- This project re-establishes the river as a valued community resource.
- The Riverwalk not only enhances connectivity but creates a community connection with art and historic artifacts included along the way – actively telling the story of Berlin as a person passes through the site.
- Impressive collaboration between all the stakeholders.
- This project checked all the boxes!
Owner: GSD Communities - John Randolph
Harmony Place, Durham
When John Randolph, owner of Harmony Homes Assisted Living and Memory Care, began exploring creative ways to stabilize his business in an industry that is struggling with staffing ratios and turnover, he had no idea that he would eventually build Harmony Place – a mixed-use, affordable housing project, complete with administrative offices, childcare facilities, and seven residential units designed exclusively for his staff.
Located in Durham, NH on the same 28-acre parcel that is home to Harmony Homes, Harmony Place was thoughtfully designed and engineered by GSD Studios and Horizons Engineering. High contractor bids threatened to shut down the project before it even got off of the ground however. In response, Randolph launched GSD Construction, allowing him to keep the project within budget and offer residents a greater level of affordability.
Since opening in August 2021, Harmony Place has proved to be more successful than originally expected. Each of the seven apartments are full, with a waiting list, and volatility in staffing has dropped dramatically. The residents of Harmony Place are able to walk to work, utilize the childcare facilities, and take advantage of the outdoor common spaces for socializing and relaxing. An ultimate product of necessity, Harmony Place not only created a solution for one specific business, but spawned the creation of new companies that continue to explore workforce solutions through the creative design and build of affordable housing.
- This project took a lot of commitment and hard work for everything to fall into place, and resulted in a phenomenal living space.
- Creative solution to the employment/housing/childcare problem; great idea for maintaining staffing levels.
- This project creates its own “neighborhood” of like-minded individuals who are trying to establish a life in a place that would otherwise be unaffordable.
- Impressive collaboration between local government, businesses, and individuals.
Owner: Makers Mill
Makers Mill, Wolfeboro
Occupying a former small engine sales and repair building just off of downtown Wolfeboro, Makers Mill is now a community makerspace and vocation hub where people come together to cultivate and share a wide variety of crafts, skills, technologies, and arts. Makers Mill includes a studio for creative arts, a fully equipped wood shop and metal shop, conference and private office space, multipurpose meeting and presentation space, and space for a future café. Makers Mill also includes a “Repair Café” where attendees can bring in their broken items, such as clothing, electronics, small appliances, bicycles, etc., and skilled volunteers will provide free repair services and advice, and even teach attendees how to repair their items independently in the future.
This project team designed a high-performance building shell, worked to retain lots of natural daylight and reduce the need for artificial light, and incorporated a solar system with battery storage. Very much in the spirit of Makers Mill, they also leveraged creative partnerships such as with the Lakes Region Technology Center, where students in the Construction Trades class came together to construct the main entrance to the building. The well-thought-out design and functionality of the art studio, shop space, and multipurpose spaces ensures that the possibilities within Makers Mill are endless! From students to hobbyists to professionals, all levels of makers are welcome to this special place of collaboration, mentorship, and learning exchange.
- Great space for bringing people together and fostering collaboration among the makers!
- The Repair Café is really impressive – something that should be replicated in every Town.
- Creating a place like Makers Mill allows individuals to come together over common interests and learn skills they otherwise may not be able to.
- Rehabbing an existing building helped integrate this project into the community and offered new ways for local residents to be involved in project development.
Owner: Pope Memorial Library
Pope Memorial Library Addition & Renovations, North Conway
The addition and renovations to the existing Pope Memorial Library stand out as a project that was
challenged with not only meeting the changing needs of the community, but also maintaining, enhancing, and celebrating the historic charm that so often characterizes main streets across New Hampshire. By repairing and enhancing the existing building, the project honored the importance of preserving and complementing the stately yet approachable granite edifice that anchors the building on Main Street, and struck a careful balance of meeting the library’s growing needs while maintaining an inviting human scale.
With the challenge of creating additional space, the project team expertly integrated three generations of architecture into one cohesive design. Additional enhancements included added parking, ADA accessibility, landscaping, patios, sculpture arts, group meeting space, a reimagined childrens’ room, new staff areas, a centralized circulation desk, and more. Centrally located in North Conway, the Pope Memorial Library serves all sixteen communities of the Mount Washington Valley Region, and while privately funded, it is free and open to the public. In fact, 100% of their operating budget is funded through donations – a strong indicator that the value of this library to members of the wider community cannot be overstated.
- This unique library is an architectural gem in downtown North Conway; its renovation and restoration celebrates the historic architecture while reinforcing it as a vital community space.
- Thinking outside of the box resulted in creative collaboration to meet the parking needs of the project.
- Building an addition allows the design to blend in with its surroundings while allowing for important upgrades.
- A wonderful rejuvenation of a critical community center for the Mount Washington Valley Region.
Owner: City of Claremont
Rethinking Pleasant Street, Claremont
Motivated by the success of the Millyard on Water Street, the City of Claremont decided to pursue the reimagining of the downtown-located Pleasant Street from a vehicle-centric thoroughfare to a pedestrian oriented environment. In an effort to jump start economic development, social interaction, and community pride, placemaking became the ultimate goal for this underutilized and less than desirable area.
Part of a designated truck route through the city, it was necessary to rethink existing traffic patterns in order to truly transform Pleasant Street. Community engagement was a vital and extensive aspect of this project, eventually leading the project team to focus on a configuration that narrowed the roadway to one southbound lane. The project involved reconfiguring truck routes and traffic signals, adding angled parking on one side of the roadway, and most importantly, widening the sidewalks on both sides of the street. The wider sidewalks, benches, street furniture, and architectural seating areas ensure that the sidewalks are now a place for people to gather, spend time, and experience Pleasant Street in a whole new way. Stone and brick pavers and other treatments create a unique sense of place in keeping with the ambiance already in place in Claremont’s Historic District, and additional enhancements include shade trees, shrubs, other plantings, bicycle racks, and modern LED light fixtures.
Impressively, this project included an entire overhaul of the underground utility infrastructure, which was reaching the end of its useful life. Claremont has seen that making investments in the form of reconstructed pavement, sidewalks, utility lines, lighting, and other amenities can stimulate development and that is what they hope to see along Pleasant Street. As the project was recently completed, the kind of positive change that the City envisions is just beginning, but already three large buildings have changed owners and are being rehabilitated for new uses. These are just the beginning of great changes in Claremont thanks to this exciting project!
Rethinking Pleasant Street was awarded the 2023 Merit Award of Excellence with Honor for its standout contribution to the built environment here in New Hampshire.
- This was a complicated project that required great levels of collaboration.
- Impressive that this project was done with local funds; it will pay back tenfold.
- The outdoor space created by the widened sidewalks lends itself to social, environmental and inclusivity impacts.
- The reimagined downtown area will spark economic impacts now and into the future!
- The addition of new infrastructure will lend itself well to economic expansion in the future.
- This is what revitalization is all about!
Owner: POrtsmouth Housing Authority
Ruth Lewin Griffin Place, Portsmouth
Ruth Lewin Griffin Place (Ruth’s Place) is a remarkable project aimed at meeting an urgent need in Portsmouth, namely the lack of affordable housing options for members of the city’s vital workforce. Through this project, the Portsmouth Housing Authority converted underutilized land in the heart of downtown Portsmouth into 64 one-bedroom and two-bedroom rental units – representing the single largest investment in affordable housing in the city of Portsmouth in nearly a half century. All of the units are financially accessible to members of the workforce making at or below 70% of the Area Median Income (AMI), and of those, 24 of the units are set aside for residents making under 50% AMI.
Ruth’s Place offers many additional benefits for those who live there. It is walkable to thousands of jobs in Portsmouth’s downtown as well as to vital city services – offering low-income residents the opportunity to forgo long commutes from distant affordable communities. It is LEED-Gold Certified and was recognized by the US Green Building Council – New Hampshire Chapter as Building of the Year for achieving the highest LEED score in the state in 2022. Additionally, Eckman Construction preserved portions of a historic building located on-site and incorporated it into a green space which, along with first-floor community gathering rooms, beautify the space and further integrate the building with the existing neighborhood.
This project utilized technical assistance, financing, and Low-Income Tax Housing Tax Credits thanks to the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority; along with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, Portsmouth-based bankProv provided tax credit equity, construction, and permanent financing; and over 30 local businesses stepped up to invest in the project by purchasing New Hampshire Community Development Tax Credits allocated by the State CDFA. The list of project partners, lenders, and other supporters goes on and on. On top of the high level of coordination required to make the financing a reality, the project itself faced delays including a yearlong permitting appeal and pandemic-related staffing and materials shortages. Despite all of the challenges, the Portsmouth Housing Authority saw a need and met that need with Ruth’s Place – a workforce housing development to be enjoyed by the very people who have helped to build a world-class creative economy right here in Portsmouth.
- This project built on the work of many people to develop affordable housing in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, which is notoriously unaffordable.
- Portsmouth Housing Authority is truly moving the needle for affordable housing!
- This project supports the neighborhood by incorporating historic preservation with new affordable places to live.
- Impressive level of coordination to make the Community Development Tax Credit program work for this project.
Congratulations to the 2023 Merit Award of Excellence Winners!
Congratulations to the 2023 Merit Award of Excellence Winners!
Nomination Deadline May 12, 2023
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.