The former Pease Air Force Base has transformed into the Pease International Tradeport, a 3,000-acre office and industrial park home to more than 245 companies with over 10,000 employees.
The Pease International Tradeport is an aviation, office, and industrial park covering 3,000 acres and is home to more than 245 companies who occupy 4 million square feet of developed space and employ 10,000 people – 25 times the civilian jobs lost when the base closed. Tenants include national and international companies, such as Allegiant Air, Lonza Biologics, Thermo Fisher, Sig Sauer and many others. Six colleges have facilities at the Tradeport, and the federal government has a presence with the State Passport Center and the National Visa Center. The 1,100-acre Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge offers walking trails and is situated adjacent to the Tradeport.
Pease Air Force Base (AFB) started as the 300-acre Portsmouth Municipal Airport in the 1930s. It was used by the U.S. Navy during World War II, and in 1951 was selected for development as a U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command base. Purchase of additional land for expansion of the base started in 1952 and was completed in 1956. In 1957, it was renamed Pease AFB.
Pease AFB was home of the 100th Bombardment Wing and 509th Bombardment Wing. Their mission was strategic warfare in the event of war. From 1956 until 1991, Pease AFB maintained a combat-ready force for long-range bombardment and nuclear strikes.
The 1988 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended the closure of Pease AFB. Military personnel began leaving the base in 1990, and Pease AFB officially closed on March 31, 1991, resulting in the loss of 400 civilian positions.
Upon announcement of the base closure, local, regional and state level representatives, and members of the public met to discuss how redevelopment should be organized, planned for and implemented. The result was the Pease Redevelopment Commission (PRC) which was established by the state and consisted of members appointed by state and local officials. OEA support helped to fund many of the initial studies and staff to oversee the work.
For part of the planning process, the PRC established six citizen advisory committees that studied and provided input on aviation, environmental conditions, economic issues and more. The Commission came to the determination that an airport should be onsite, and that a significant part of the former base should be limited to conservation, including a 1,100-acre wildlife refuge operated by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The development process was broken down into three phases – Phase I focused on developing an international aviation hub, with business attraction and commercial development to follow.
Careful and inclusive planning were important keys to the success of the redevelopment of Pease AFB. In fact, the planning process helped define what success would look like. As the reuse plan was being discussed, it became evident that there was widespread support for four criteria that the redevelopment should meet. The criteria became the guiding principles of the project: job creation, environmental quality, fiscal responsibility, and economic viability.
The redevelopment authority and all others used these four criteria to measure all decision making, ensuring there was agreement along the way.
Another key to success was initial financial support provided by the State of New Hampshire. Soon after the property transferred to the Pease Development Authority (PDA), the state made approximately $21 million available as a loan for initial capital improvements and operating costs.
The Tradeport, Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, the Division of Ports and Harbors and the Pease Golf Course are all managed by PDA along with its seven-member board of directors. The PDA is an independent state agency with combined annual revenues in excess of $15 million.
Updated October 2020