Pack Square Conservancy scratches pavilion plan

The group heading up the redesign of downtown Asheville's Pack Square has decided to eliminate a $2.5 million, 4,200-square-foot pavilion planned for the north side of the park due to financial and time constraints.

Guy Clerici, who chairs the Pack Square Conservancy's board of trustees, made the announcement during a Feb. 22 update on the new park's status, displaying a new configuration of Reuter Terrace featuring a large grassy area and an information kiosk where the pavilion would have stood.

The conservancy doesn't yet have in hand the $2 million it said it would need before starting construction of the pavilion, Clerici told a group that included several Buncombe County commissioners and Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy. And with the group hoping to have the long-awaited park finally open this spring, time is running out.

"We want to [open the park] before everything dries up and the birds come out," Clerici explained. "We want to have everything buttoned up by spring."

The new design calls for trees surrounding a grassy area, with the kiosk on one side. The space, he said, would be big enough to accommodate a special-event tent and could serve as a placeholder if the city decided to build a pavilion later. Underground plumbing and electricity have already been installed at the site.

Donors who'd pledged money for the park were contacted about the change and registered their approval, Clerici told Xpress, and on Feb. 24, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority voted to reaffirm its $500,000 matching grant in spite of the change.

The pavilion has been something of a question mark for more than a year. Construction had been expected to begin in 2008, but in December of that year the project was in jeopardy due to delays and funding problems. The following month, however, the conservancy board voted to keep the pavilion in the park plans while delaying construction to allow more time for fundraising.

Even without the pavilion, the group still needs to raise an additional $1.4 million to pay for the park and establish an endowment, Clerici explained, but the total cost is expected to come in below the $20 million once predicted for the project.

At the meeting, Clerici also addressed concerns about flooding in the basement of the adjacent Hayes & Hopson Building, the home of the soon-to-open Pack's Tavern. The city and the conservancy have both been taking steps to stem the flow of water seeping into the basement of the historic structure, owned by developer Stewart Coleman.

The city has already replaced a pipe beneath Spruce Street and capped a drainage line that ran under the building. Meanwhile, the conservancy plans to install a new trench drain in a triangular section of the park that borders the building. A soil expert is also slated to examine the plot and recommend additional changes to stem the runoff.

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