Hampton Beach Master Plan: Requirements for Achieving the Vision
The vision of Hampton Beach cannot be realized unless certain conditions are met. The following lists several fundamental requirements that are needed to achieve a broad-based success that simultaneously improves the image and character of the area, unlocks reinvestment in the recreation, residential, and commercial areas, and creates a functional transportation system.
The residential and business communities as well as the local and state governments must support widespread efforts to improve the image of Hampton Beach.
The image of a community affects the decisions of potential visitors, residents, and businesses as they decide to visit, shop, recreate, invest, or live in a beach community. Hampton Beach has retained an image that does not contribute favorably to its quality of life either as a destination or as a place to live or work. Its positive attributes as a tourist destination include its natural features including the beach, water, and river, and their associated activities including swimming and boating. It has the Casino as an entertainment venue, and a network of hotels, lodges and cabins that provide a pleasant getaway. Many of the area’s summer homes and cabins have been converted into year-round residences, and parts of Hampton Beach are exhibiting the characteristics of a well-tended residential area.
However, the overall quality of the visitor and resident experience is diminished by the lack of diverse amenities, poor quality infrastructure, congestion, and poorly maintained buildings that permeate areas of the Beach. Use patterns such as "cruising", while clearly attracting some populations, are distracting and undesirable for others. The poor image creates a cumulative loss of value that is translated directly into relatively low property values and tax revenues. Without reinvestment, the area cannot achieve its full potential.
Hampton Beach’s cultural and geographic resources provide a strong foundation for positive change. Its image can be successfully revitalized through a consistent and coordinated program that supports its assets and promotes its strengths and opportunities.
The future activity envisioned in this Plan must build upon the distinct attractions and advantages that Hampton Beach possesses relative to other communities and markets in the region, including Boston, Lowell, Manchester, and Portsmouth. Furthermore, Hampton Beach has the potential to capture tourists who travel along the I-95 from regional communities to areas with similar amenities to Hampton Beach such as York and Ogunquit in Maine, Portsmouth and Rye in New Hampshire, and other coastal resorts. Hampton Beach was once a far greater attraction to Canadians. It is possible to recapture some of this market, as well as appealing to a greater European market than it serves today.
The Hampton Beach waterfront is an attractive, interesting destination and has numerous activities, events, and other recreational amenities that cater to a wide range of audiences. The Seashell Stage, Casino, Beach, State Park, and State Marina are all attractions with features that could be enhanced with new programs and facilities. Hampton Beach can build upon these regional strengths and advantages to make it a more pleasant, varied and extended seasonal destination.
The Hampton Beach area has an outstanding direct transportation connection to and from the region. However, during the summer season, access at the Beach entrances and along all the roads become congested, especially on hot summer days when people arrive in the mornings and when they leave in the late afternoons, and during special events. Hampton Beach needs to improve traffic flow in and out of the beach area. Clear, direct routes to parking facilities, changes in the roadway directions, and adequate public transportation are just a few of the potential opportunities for improving traffic. The overall plan for vehicles would reduce the number of cars that seek areas to park and circulate around the Ashworth Avenue /Ocean Boulevard loop.
Today, the Hampton Beach area provides a high "quality of life" for some of its residents and visitors. However, changing the image will result in substantial gains in quality that will in turn shift the perceptions of the citizenry and the markets. Improved infrastructure, amenities, public attractions, access to and from the Beach, parking, and buildings, and increasing the diversity of businesses and residential areas and other positive changes will attract higher quality businesses and visitors.
This vision cannot be accomplished without a range of other actions and programs to support its completion, including the following:
- development of a management structure that can initiate and accomplish the complex tasks of revitalization over an extended period of time
- a significant financial commitment from local, state, and federal sources
- the provision of adequate infrastructure such as dredging and sewer systems to support existing and potential uses
- a coordinated program of new events and attractions to extend the season and attract new visitors.
While these elements are necessary for the Plan to come to fruition, achieving the full vision will require the continuing commitment of the Town’s residents and businesses.
The revitalization plan for the Hampton Beach area represents more than a checklist of desirable actions and recommendations. It is intended to be a comprehensive and coordinated program that will improve the image and the quality of life for people who live, work, and visit the area.
Revitalization of Hampton Beach will occur through a series of steps set out in a logical progression of project planning, implementation, and program development. The following key components outline this step-by-step strategy.
Public sector improvements are needed at the start of the revitalization process to help change the image and make the area more accessible. They could range from signage and access improvements to new gateways. Signage and infrastructure improvements that correct basic circulation problems are necessary to make Hampton Beach function more efficiently, especially at peak-use times. These steps are critical to setting the stage for revitalization in the private sector. Furthermore, the planning, permitting, and coordination of Phase II actions that support the long-term vision must be initiated.
The recommendations lay out a step-by-step process for implementing the Plan. The Plan describes the actions needed over a 50-year period. Some specific changes can be implemented immediately; other recommendations require a longer planning period. The initial phase describes detailed steps with responsible parties, funding sources, and appropriate costs, while the later phase identifies only the long-term steps.
This Plan envisions three specific stages of growth over the next 50 years:
- Phase 1: Present to 2 Years
- Phase 2: 3 to 9 Years
- Phase 3: 10 to 50 Years
Each of the stages provides a series of steps to be implemented during that period. The following paragraphs provide a conceptual portrait and overview of the different phases. Table 25. Summary of Recommendations in Section V: Implementation lists the key actions, responsible parties, phasing of the actions, and potential funding resources.
Making visible changes to the area to improve its image is a fundamental requirement that would help set the stage for growth. The Plan advocates short-term actions to enhance the appearance of the Beach through changes in directive and informational signage, and improving the gateways near the Hampton River Bridge and Route 101 exits and entrances. Landscape improvements and associated amenities are also recommended to make the place more attractive to all users. Finally, a more concerted effort must be made to keep some neglected private and public areas clean.
Phase 1: Present to 2 Years
During the first two years, most investments and actions will be channeled to create visible changes and set the stage for programs and long-term improvements. Initially, there will be a relatively modest level of public expenditure relative to later phases, as the early projects will be simple to implement and fairly small in scale. Beyond "bricks and mortar" improvements, there will be substantial permitting and technical studies that will provide the basis for project development, and neighborhood, business area, and recreational improvements in the later phases. Multiple programs can be created with the initial seed money. It is expected that these programs will be managed and coordinated through the first ten years of the plan and possibly beyond that time depending of the levels of investments. A specific level of investment must be secured for these initial stages of implementation to set the framework for later stages.
Phase 2: 3 to 9 Years
The focus during this stage would be for the management entity to implement the improvement programs, and incrementally improve the State Park, mixed-use, and neighborhood areas. In addition, this phase would involve site permitting and negotiations associated with larger projects, such as development of new performance areas and the construction of a new bridge. Investment levels in both the public and private sector would increase during this phase. However, replacement of the Hampton River Bridge may require a substantial investment of public funds.
Phase 3: 10 to 50 Years
This later phase of implementation will focus on completing the stage for later private sector investment by finalizing and implementing major public investment projects. The principal construction projects may include a new parking structure and removal of parking spaces from prime beachfront property. It would also involve coordination with any changes in future infrastructure including core area improvements such as a conference center/hotel.
An important component of this Plan would be the continued expansion of amenities and attractions to further improve the quality of life. Investment levels would increase substantially for the private sector, and public sector investment levels would decrease.