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PORTSMOUTH – A proposal to build 44 new workforce housing units on the site of Christ Episcopal Church at 1035 Lafayette Road recently received important support from a city committee.

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) unanimously recommended that the project be granted planning permission and submitted to the Planning Board for final review by the Land Use Planning Committee.

In addition to the Portsmouth Housing Authority’s new four-story, 44-unit workforce housing project, the redevelopment plan includes renovating the ground floor of the existing church into office space for Haven.

According to statements from the development team and documents filed with the city, Haven will convert and renovate the ground floor of the existing church into office space for its new headquarters. Haven’s mission, according to its website, is “to prevent sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, and to support and empower all women.”

According to the plans, Haven will also “build a seven-unit transitional housing addition north of its new office.”

“The basement of the existing church will be renovated for the Little Blessings Child Care Center. Christ Episcopal Church will be relocated to the existing rectory on the south portion of the site,” said documents filed with the city by Patrick Crimmins and Neil Hansen of Tighe & Bond, who are working with Haven, the Portsmouth Housing Authority and Christ Episcopal Church.

New COAST bus stop at 1035 Lafayette Road

Access to the redeveloped property will continue to be via the existing driveways at 1035 Lafayette Road.

Hansen, who represented the development team at a recent technical advisory committee meeting, asked committee members to forward the project to the planning committee in August.

The development team said: “It is crucial that they attend this meeting so that they can raise the funds needed to actually implement the project next year,” Hansen said.

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He added that COAST (Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation) has agreed to build a bus stop on the property.

The location is on a busy stretch of Route 1 near several retail stores and restaurants.

“Current plans are for COAST to move its route onto the site to serve the stop in front of the existing church building,” Hansen said.

PHA Executive Director Craig Welch was not immediately available for comment. He previously noted that the development team is committed to preserving and honoring the African cemetery at Langdon Farm, which is located on the church grounds.

He called it a “really important piece of history,” adding: “There are actually 14 remains on the site and … they were a big part of the site planning.”

A mix of housing on church land

As for the new housing, Welch stressed that “100%” of the 44 housing units to be built in a new building off Route 1 on the church property would be employee housing.

Sarah Hourihane, principal of Lassel Architects, which is working on the new residential building, said it will rise up to four storeys but will drop to three storeys in some places.

Hourihane had previously told the committee that the new building would have 33 one-bedroom units, nine two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom units.