Quick facts

Army mounting to redesign Pack Square

With the ground sinking under the Pack Square fountain, and construction crews gearing up to fix it, the Downtown Commission wants to get in on the dig. The commission is seeking public participation in redesigning Pack Square.

Commission Chair Carol King asked Council for $7,500 — and members unanimously voted to give it — toward a $40,000 fund to hire a design expert and create a marketing plan. The commission has already formed a 44-member task force — comprised of downtown property owners, residents, artists and even some representatives from the homeless community — that will guide the design, funding and marketing committees.

“There’s a tremendous groundswell to move forward with the project in the public and private sector,” noted King. “We want everyone to feel like they had a part in designing the project.”

The whole surgical undertaking — which could stretch from Pack Square to City/County Plaza — will cost somewhere between $500,000 and $2.5 million, King estimated. And 60 percent of that funding, she said, will come from the private sector.

“There’s a need to make some changes in Pack Square,” agreed Council member Barbara Field, adding, “Can’t we, from what I’m hearing, make it into a square again? I think it’s a very exciting project.” In addition to public input, King said the task force will be taking into consideration the vision of the original designer of the square, based on old photographs.

“This proposal has several attractive features, and we do need to redesign that part of the city,” observed Vice Mayor Chuck Cloninger. “It has major elements of public participation, which could generate enthusiasm from the private sector.”

Council member Ed Hay, who was on the committee that redesigned Pack Square 15 years ago, asked King: “How does the construction fit into [the ground-sinking problems] we’re talking about today?” It offers an opportunity to fix some utility infrastructure while the ground is open, she answered.

Mayor Leni Sitnick, who reported that Asheville is the most generous community in which she’s ever lived, played devil’s advocate for a moment: “We have limited funds. Whatever is designed and planned, it will take an enormous amount of money and time. The greater community needs to know that it’s not going to happen overnight.”

More juice for the Civic Center

With recent blackouts and melted hockey-arena ice under public scrutiny, Council approved $95,000 to fix electrical problems at the antiquated Civic Center.

With the trade-show season looming on the horizon, now is the time to make repairs, Civic Center Director David Pisha told Council. Electrical contractors, he said, will rewire the facility (dropping wires from the ceiling, rather pulling them through the floor) to make more power will be available.

Council member Terry Whitmire asked whether this work would benefit future renovations. Pisha replied that all the electrical repairs should fit with any additional building improvements.

DOT looking forward to public input

The Department of Transportation responded favorably to the city’s plan for public input on the I-26 Connector, City Planner Scott Shuford reported to Council.

“[DOT] said they want to do this right, and would like to do it by March,” Shuford said. “It will slow down some of their design drawings, but they’ll be able to compress their construction crews, so there will be no delays in the project.”

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