The director of the group overseeing the $20 million makeover of Asheville’s high-profile center-city park is planning to step aside as the Pack Square Conservancy begins to shift its focus.
Marilyn Geiselman, who was hired as the conservancy’s first staff member in 2002 and has served as executive director since 2007, plans to move into more of a consulting role as the group begins to shift its focus from construction of the park to programming the public space.
“I think that the Pack Square Conservancy is at a real turning point because it’s not going to be a construction-focused organization any more. It’s going to be a park-planning organization. My experience is much more on the project side of things,” Geiselman told Mountain Xpress on Thursday. “For all of those reasons, it’s a good time for the transition, and for me personally.”
Geiselman, who moved from California to Asheville with her husband in 2001, has a background in business management and large-scale-construction management. She said she’s looking forward to staying involved in seeing through details of the park construction, but believes a new executive director needs to focus on long-range planning and park programming. That programming will be done hand-in-hand with the city Parks and Recreation Department, and will supplement existing activities and festivals, she said.
“One thing we know from studying other parks is that active parks are healthy parks, so we want to help fill the gaps in the city’s programming to offer year-round activity of all kinds: educational, cultural, recreational, and likely on a smaller scale that the festival-size events that that space has typically seen,” she said.
The conservancy board, in a retreat meeting Wednesday, agreed to have Geiselman move into a different role and begin the search next week for a new executive director, she said.
“It’s been a thrill to be part of as magnificent a project as I think this will be when it’s finished,” Geiselman said.
Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners created the nonprofit conservancy to oversee the construction of the new Pack Square Park, which extends from the front steps of City Hall and the county courthouse up to the center of Pack Square.
Valley Crest Landscape Development was awarded a $7.5 million contract earlier this year to perform one of the final major phases of the 6.5-acre park’s remodeling, which includes a performance stage, water features and landscaping. The construction is scheduled to be complete in September 2009.
Since construction started three years ago, the project has seen a number of delays and an escalating budget.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor