A subcommittee of the Pack Square Conservancy held an Oct. 22 work session to evaluate developer Stewart Coleman‘s proposed Parkside project. The 11-story, mixed-use building would be built adjacent to the Asheville City Hall on a parcel that’s the subject of an ongoing legal fight. The Conservancy board, which is charged with reviewing all development and redevelopment projects fronting on Pack Square and Roger McGuire Green, first considered Coleman’s plans at its Oct. 3 meeting. Following a presentation by Charlotte architect Mark Fishero, lead designer of the high-rise, the board framed a list of comments and concerns it wanted Coleman to address. Both men attended last week’s work session to provide answers.
Chief among those concerns were obstructing the “view corridor” from the Vance Monument “to the mountains and City Hall,” and a feeling that the “scale of [the] building creates a lack of balance in the space.” Fishero told the group that the building has been redesigned “at some significant cost,” shifting from a steel-frame structure to one using pre-stressed concrete. This, he said, had enabled them to reduce the height by a little more than 12 feet.
He also provided computer-generated views showing that Parkside would not obscure the view from the monument of most of the City Hall façade. When asked by Xpress if the pediments at the base of the City Building would be considered part of the façade, Fishero conceded, “It is obscuring a minor part of the façade.” The Conservancy guidelines, approved by City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2003, state, “New development must maintain a clear view corridor from the Vance Monument to the Buncombe County Court House, City Hall and the mountains beyond.”
In regard to the mountains, Fishero noted that the county detention center already blocks the mountain view between the city and county buildings. As for blocking the view to the south of the City Hall, he said a building is needed “in order to develop an edge to the park. Unfortunately, the edge can’t be transparent.”
Board member Carol King asked Coleman if he had considered a land swap with the city that would enable the building to be moved back onto what is now Marjorie Street. Coleman said: “I began talking to [then Planning and Development Director] Scott Shuford about a land swap in 2005. I held my first meeting with Shuford and his staff in January 2006. On July 24, 2007, the City Council reviewed my proposal for a land swap in closed session. We were denied.”
Addressing other concerns, Fishero specified the building materials to be used, affirmed that landscaping would be consistent with plans for the park, used animations to demonstrate the building’s shadow effect, and assured the board that the building would be fully compatible with any performing-arts center that might be sited in the block south of Marjorie Street. Coleman added that he has seriously considered a perpetual land-transfer fund that would apportion money to affordable-housing projects whenever Parkside condominium units changed hands. He said he’s been in touch with Habitat for Humanity concerning such a project.
The subcommittee will forward its recommendations concerning the project to the full board, which will consider the matter during its Nov. 7 session. Although Conservancy board review is mandatory for projects adjacent to the park, it’s up to City Council to enforce the guidelines.