The Office Landscape in Portsmouth, NH [a Smart Alternative to Boston]

An aerial view of the Portsmouth Harbor in the summer.

Avoid the traffic and taxes of Boston, without sacrificing a thing …

These days it seems like everyone’s sick of Boston’s traffic and taxes, and they’re looking for the next best alternative.

But, for those in the know, a quick check of the surrounding cities generally goes something like this: Worcester, no. Manchester, no. Providence, definitely no. Portland, as nice as it is, is still in Maine. In fact, it’s not till you stumble across Portsmouth, NH, that you’ll find such a confluence of positive factors that compare to Boston itself.

It’s no secret that New Hampshire’s pro-business mantra and low taxes make it an appealing business destination. But let’s face it, when it comes to attracting talent, being convenient and reinforcing a brand with some swagger, Manchester, Nashua and Concord — though definitely business friendly — fall well short of a city like Boston.

This is why Portsmouth (and the Seacoast’s surrounding 15-mile radius) is all of a sudden becoming the hippest place to relocate a business in New England. Portsmouth is one of the most beautiful historic downtowns in the world with modern amenities and office parks located nearby. It’s perfectly situated 45 minutes from Boston, Manchester and Portland. It’s a major hub of East/West and North/South routes, serving all modes of transportation and significant traffic or congestion. It’s surrounded by colleges including nearby UNH, it pulls from Boston’s talent pool due to it’s favorable “reverse commute” and, best of all, workers in NH pay no state income tax.

One of the biggest working ports in the Northeast, Portsmouth is just minutes from area beaches. It’s an hour closer than Boston to skiing, the Maine coast, Vermont, Lake Winnipesaukee and roughly equidistant to New York City. Waterfront homes, amazing schools, downtown condos and restaurants galore have earned Portsmouth a spot on nearly every Top 10 listicle the magazine industry can muster. So if you’re looking for negatives, that’s just it: Portsmouth’s no longer a secret. With all of this, it’s no wonder why the Portsmouth Seacoast now plays home to some of the Northeast’s biggest brands like Lindt Chocolate, Timberland, Nike, Bauer, Cole Haan, Stonewall Kitchen, Tyco, Sig Sauer, Liberty Mutual, HubSpot, Lonza Biologics, John Hancock, and the list goes on and on.

If you’re considering relocating a business to Portsmouth, we’ve put together the following guide to help you along your way.


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Where Businesses Are Opening Their Doors in Portsmouth

Portsmouth offers businesses a variety of choices when it comes to locating their headquarters. Build-to-suit, multi-tenant office, and multi-tenant mixed-use spaces can be found in the city’s vibrant downtown as well as in surrounding areas.

Downtown Portsmouth: According to “Core Values: Why American Companies Are Moving Downtown,” a report by Smart Growth America and Cushman & Wakefield, hundreds of companies across the country are moving to walkable, amenity-rich downtown locations where their employees can work, play and live. They feel such downtown areas put them in a better position to attract and retain talented employees while putting them in closer proximity to their customers and business partners.

Downtown Portsmouth’s dense concentration of restaurants, cafes, bars, boutiques, and public parks, all within walking distance of each other, is very appealing to businesses. It doesn’t hurt that Portsmouth was recognized by National Geographic as being perhaps the best small town in the United States, though technically it is considered a small city (population: 21,485).

Office space is available for sale or rent in downtown Portsmouth at a variety of price points. Although options are more expensive than those outside of the downtown area, affordable ones do exist. For example, rents at oHive, an office and co-working community located in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, starting at $28/square foot for a private office. Plusher options, such as offices at Harbour Place, which overlooks the Piscataqua River, go for around $40/square foot.

While companies that make downtown Portsmouth their home are very happy they did, many find one thing about it challenging – parking. Securing a free parking spot requires patience and monthly parking garage passes hover around $200, which some employers address by providing a subsidy. Thankfully, the City of Portsmouth is taking a multi-pronged approach to improve the parking situation including the construction of a new municipal parking garage. In addition, employees who live downtown can opt not to have a car thanks to Uber, bike-share programs, and local car rental services.

The Outskirts of Downtown Portsmouth: There are many office space options available in areas surrounding Portsmouth’s downtown. Located not far from the heart of one of America’s most beautiful small cities, they are more affordable and offer ample free parking. While many of these office locations are spread out throughout greater Portsmouth, others are grouped together within office and industrial parks including:

  • Pease International Tradeport, a former U.S. Air Force Base that has been transformed into a business and aviation community, is probably Portsmouth’s best-known office/industrial hybrid park. Its developers had the foresight to realize that on-site amenities including hotels, restaurants, banks, and gyms would make it more appealing to businesses by delivering a bit of what is offered in Portsmouth’s downtown, which is 4.6 miles away. It is home to an impressive list of tenants including Thermo Fisher Scientific and Lonza. Many smaller companies rent space at oHive’s Pease location.
  • Portsmouth Office Park, an office/research land use zone featuring 535,000 square feet of Class A office space, underwent extensive environmentally focused renovations in 2012. Its Commerce Way location — just 1.5 miles away from downtown Portsmouth and within walking distance of retail amenities and services along Woodbury Avenue — is also appealing to businesses.
  • Heritage-Constitution Industrial Park’s location, like that of all of Portsmouth’s offices and industrial parks, appeals to companies due to its easy commuting for workers and convenient transportation routes for business operations. Its east side abuts Route One, a major north-south vehicular corridor along Seacoast New Hampshire. Its west side abuts Banfield Road, which brings traffic to Interstate 95 and Route 16. Located just under four miles from downtown Portsmouth, it offers businesses the opportunity to purchase entire buildings.

While employees working at Pease International Tradeport, Portsmouth Office Park, and Heritage-Constitution Industrial Park locations don’t enjoy instant access to the incredible energy and amenities of downtown Portsmouth, they are within a very short drive to several shopping plazas that house a variety of restaurants and retail outlets. Pease International Tradeport and Portsmouth Office Park are minutes away from the Mall at Fox Run and The Crossings, while Heritage-Constitution Industrial Park is near Portsmouth Green.

A little-known benefit that Pease International Tradeport, Portsmouth Office Park, and Heritage-Constitution Industrial Park offer businesses is that they are designated Economic Revitalization Zones. This means businesses located within them are eligible for special tax credits. In addition, they tend to offer build-to-suit opportunities, which are rarely available in downtown Portsmouth.

Portsmouth’s Foreign Trade Sites

Pease International Tradeport and Heritage-Constitution Industrial Park are foreign trade sites, the benefits of which make them ideal locations for manufacturers as well as import and export businesses. Each offers access to the East Coast and international trade corridors by land, by air cargo from Portsmouth International Airport, or by sea via Portsmouth’s Port of New Hampshire.

Resources to Help You Find the Ideal Office Space

Whether you are relocating a business from the greater Portsmouth area to downtown or vice-versa, or looking to move your business from another state or country to Portsmouth, many resources can assist you in finding the ideal office space.

The New Hampshire Division of Economic Development website has a Find Sites and Buildings section that enables you to search for available office space in Portsmouth that meets your criteria. The Pease International Tradeport posts its available listings online.

If you would rather have someone else do the research and present options to you, commercial real estate firms such as Carey & Giampa, Brick & Barn, and CBRE/New England can help. Several companies in the area have a wide array of office locations in their portfolios that they would be glad to present to you. They include Two International Group and The Kane Group.

In addition to all the great reasons to move your office to Portsmouth that you are already aware of, local economic development officials are working hard on innovative strategies to attract new commerce and enhance the city’s reputation as a premier destination for businesses and employees alike.

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Zachary Gregg

President & CEO

Having built several successful New Hampshire-based companies, Zac has become one of the Granite State's most notable businessmen. This expertise is in his blood, as he comes from a family well-known for their commercial real estate projects. As President and CEO of oHIVE, Zac translates his entrepreneurial spirit and unmatched business acumen into a community focused on helping Seacoast businesses grow and prosper.