PORTSMOUTH — Novocure Inc.’s plan to build a glass rooftop pavilion on top of their new flagship downtown headquarters continues to move closer to fruition.
Members of the city’s Historic District Commission offered positive reviews of the proposed project during a meeting this week.
Representatives of the cancer-fighting company’s development team are expected to seek final approval from the HDC the next time they appear before the board.
City Councilor Rich Blalock, who also serves on the HDC, said although the rooftop pavilion is set back from the edges of the roof, “I almost wish you could see it a little bit more.”
“What you can see, I like it a lot,” he said.
“I’m so excited that Novocure is in downtown Portsmouth, that you guys decided to come downtown and not go out to Pease,” Blalock said during Wednesday night’s meeting in City Hall.
He added that he loves “the idea of an active rooftop too.”
“I’m for this, I’m very supportive of this,” Blalock said.
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Historic District Commission members praise pavilion
Commissioner Martin Ryan called the proposed rooftop pavilion “terrific.”
“I think it’s developing very nicely,” he said. “It’s not too tall, but it still has a nice cap to the building.”
Commissioner Larry Booz told Novocure’s representatives at Wednesday’s meeting, “I really like it.”
“It actually looks like a London botanical garden kind of structure, it looks beautiful,” he said.
Architect Mark Moeller of JSA Design represented Novocure at this week’s meeting.
He noted that “we basically shaped this roof pavilion within the confines of what can be done in this penthouse arrangement” under the city’s zoning ordinance.
That includes setting the pavilion feature, whose glass will be opaque, 10 feet back from the edges of the roof at the downtown headquarters, he said.
“The views of this rooftop pavilion from different vantage points around the building, at least from an eye-level perspective, it’s set back from the perimeter,” Moeller stressed. “It does reduce the amount of visibility of the structure. I know to the point that some of you had expressed earlier, if you had your druthers, you would see it.”
“And it’s not like we’re trying to completely camouflage this thing, of course you will be able to see it, but the effect of it looming over its neighbors is going to be completely diminished by virtue of that setback,” Moeller added.
The positive reviews about the project come after the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a variance in August that Novocure needed for the project to move forward.
The original building at 64 Vaughan Street, where Novocure’s headquarters is located, was built in the late 19th century and was initially home to the Margeson Bros. Furniture Co.
Work continues on the renovation of that building, along with the addition, company officials said.
The downtown building will be used for Novocure’s “executive offices and training and development center,” said attorney John Bosen, who represented them at the recent ZBA meeting.
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‘Very important’ for Novocure
The glass pavilion will enclose a previously approved “open-air outdoor terrace of approximately 2,158 square feet,” he said.
“We also do believe that this project is very important for Novocure, who intends to not only use the building for its employees but to host a variety of professionals and scientists from all over the world, for training and for conferences,” Bosen said previously.
The penthouse space will provide “employees and guests access to outdoor space where no green space is available at 64 Vaughan St.,” Bosen said.
Bosen said Novocure intends to employ 200-250 people in the building adjacent to the Worth lot and Vaughan Mall.
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What does Novocure do?
William F. Doyle, the executive chairman of Novocure, said previously that the company was created more than 22 years ago “to bring a completely new way to treat cancer to patients.”
“We use electric fields to disrupt cells as they divide,” he said. “This therapy has no side effects, and can be used for long periods of time by patients to treat deadly cancers.”
The company already uses the technology to treat brain cancer, Doyle said, and is in “late-stage clinical trials (to treat) lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer.”