Port City Mongoplex: A modest proposal

mongoplexHere in quaint little Portsmouth (motto: “Tourist Magnet by the Sea”), the pressures of development are causing seismic disruptions in both the city’s visual landscape and the public dialogue.

Construction is booming and critics are barking. But, predictably, the debate too often pits the Build, Baby, Builders vs. the Cease and Desisters.

Into this volatile mix, I feel obliged to introduce a modest proposal for a historic, futuristic project that everyone can get behind.

Heritage, haute cuisine, commerce and the arts would all converge in the ground-breaking, sky-scraping Port City Mongoplex.

(For those not familiar with the term “mongoplex,” it is a concept I coined back in 2000 when I proposed that rustic, yet rusty Fenway Park be replaced by a 10-story multipurpose supertower topped by a glistening Neo-Fenway with luxury Green Monster seats offering spectacular views of both the game and the island of Nantucket.)

Savvy urban planners understand that the revenue you can suck in with a colossal custom-designed Port City Mongoplex is astronomical.

Picture, if you will, a squat, brick version of Boston’s Prudential Tower on steroids — with a vertigo-inducing array of retail, entertainment and investment opportunities.

Here’s an example of the offerings on a hypothetical Saturday night in July 2015, if we get this thing on the fast track:

First floor: An authentic, old-timey five-and-dime store called, yes, J.J. Newberry’s — complete with a nostalgic (circa 1972) lunch counter serving grilled cheeses for $1.99.

Before this one-time Congress Street treasure closed its doors back in the late 20th century, I wrote a eulogy reflecting on those halcyon days of yore when a senior citizen could still purchase a tub of Vicks VapoRub, or a young boy some Sea-Monkeys, for under a dollar.

Second floor: A state-of-the-art museum featuring animatronic figures of Naval hero John Paul Jones and beer pioneer Frank Jones, the scissors used by 5-year-old future mayor Eileen Foley when she cut the ribbon opening the Memorial Bridge back in 1923 and 3-D Omnimax movies of bulldozers tearing down the Italian neighborhood that once stood in the city’s North End.

Though the name of the museum can certainly be auctioned to the highest corporate bidder, for now it is called History Palooza.

Third floor: Enter the PCM Convention Center. Lions and Shriners and Elks, oh my. You name it, this cutting-edge conference space can host it. Potential events already include the annual conventions of the Great-Great-Great-Granddaughters of the American Revolution and the 50,000-member National Pistol-Whipping Association, an underground militia of men and women who not only like to shoot guns, they like to hit people in the head with them.

It is also an ideal venue for TED Talks — those wildly popular forums featuring the rantings of America’s finest Teds, from Turner and Danson to Kaczynski and Nugent.

Fourth floor: Once your pupils adjust to the flashing lights and jackpot bells, you’ll see that The Golden Lighthouse Casino is a lavish Vegas-style gambling parlor with a twist — a special “Kiddie Kasino” section featuring toy slot machines and puppet shows to keep junior occupied while mom and dad gamble away his hopes of ever attending college.

Fifth floor: Welcome to the Mongo Hall, an epic epicenter of arts and culture. In the summer of 2015 alone, projected off-off-Broadway offerings include “Dracula’s Big Gay Wedding,” “Annie Get Your Rocket Launcher” and the Batman-inspired “Riddler on the Roof.”

And at the weekly “Battle of the Bands,” just imagine the irreparable eustachian tube damage waiting to be wreaked by such hot new acts as What!?!, Get Out of My Face and Sext Machine. Not to mention local talent like the Not in My Back Yardbirds, Strawbery Banke Robbers and the Chris Elliott Experience.

Sixth and seventh floors: Executive offices for Fortune 5000 firms. Target tenants include biotech innovators like the Hackman Wilder Gene Institute, financial giants Sperm Bank of America and Morgan Stanley Kubrick, and such promising Internet startups as Microhard, Twizzler and Brainfreeze.com.

Eighth and ninth floors: Sleep easy on a buckwheat pillow and 1776 thread-count sheets at the Triple Sheraton Marriott Hilton Deluxe Hotel. When world leaders are in town for the international summit conference downstairs, they’ll spend millions knocking back $14 Sam Adamses at the authentic “Cheers” bar and chowing down upstairs at …

Tenth floor: Lord knows there aren’t nearly enough restaurants in this town. So the tippy-top story of the Mongoplex will have three — all perched on a rotating platform with panoramic views of the Isles of Shoals, Mount Agamenticus and Somersworth.

First, I give you Mandarini’s — the ultimate fusion of Chinese-Italian cuisine. Foodies far and wide will flock to Mandarini’s for their signature Moo Goo Gai Meatballs and General Tso’s Chicken Parm!

Locavores will drool for the farm-fresh Egg McMuffins and free-range Chicken McNuggets at Ye Olde McDonald’s.

And since almost every possible clever and non-clever name for a seafood restaurant is already taken (I’m hearing good things about Kittery newcomers Shrimptasmo and Plankton Hut), we’re tentatively calling our chic nautical shack Murphy’s Claw.

Of course, naysayers will whine that an ultramodern, 150-foot brickish tower in the heart of downtown Portsmouth would harm the city’s precious historic character.

So in the spirit of compromise — if it helps the Mongoplex get past the Historic District Commission — my investors are even willing to tack some expensive slate shingles on top.

Bonus: By burrowing and blasting deep through the Earth’s lithosphere and into its upper mantle, the Mongoplex will mine 15,000-20,000 new spaces to solve the city’s parking crunch.

— John Breneman

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