A grass-roots effort is under way to build a new public plaza near the Haywood Street entrance of the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville.
The public space would complement the plaza already in the works as part of McKibbon Hotel Group’s plans for a 140-room hotel across from the the venue and the Basilica of St. Lawrence, reports local architect Tom Gallaher. The new hotel was approved last September after months of intense debate.
Gallaher, who serves on the board of directors of the Asheville Design Center, says the nonprofit planning center is currently working with the Basilica, McKibbon Hotel Group, U.S. Cellular Center, Vanderbilt Apartments, Battery Park Apartments and AT&T to develop the project.
He revealed the plans during recent a panel discussion on public art at the Creative Sector Summit, which brought together the local creative community, development companies and other civic organizations to discuss the economic and social realities of the arts in Western North Carolina.
Although Gallaher notes that most of the development’s details are still being worked out, he hopes it will “become a major open space downtown.” One of the tentative names of the area would be “Guastavino Plaza,” after Rafael Guastavino, the renowned architect who designed the neighboring Basilica, says Gallaher.
“We will be having a public meeting soon [about the project],” Gallaher told the group of roughly 60 creative professionals at the summit. “And I encourage all of you to be present and to make positive comments on what you would like to see Guastavino Place become.”
However, Gallaher noted that the plans are still in the early stages and may not happen without the support of the public, city and other interested parties.
“I can’t promise anything,” he said. Joking about the sometimes contentious local approval process for such projects, he added: “We decided that the pope resigned really because he found out he was becoming involved in a public process in Asheville, North Carolina. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes sense.”