The board overseeing construction of the new Pack Square Park announced two weeks ago that it had given the green light for the next major phase of building in the downtown park. But that was before the board, out of concern for downtown-business owners feeling the financial pinch of the prolonged construction work, asked its general contractor to make a significant schedule change.
At a recent public meeting, the Pack Square Conservancy heard from business owners who said their bottom lines were suffering because of the ongoing construction. Another major concern: The initial construction plan meant that the space normally reserved for the Taste of Asheville food booths at Pack Square during Bele Chere wouldn’t be available.
The conservancy board asked the general contractor — Valley Crest Landscape Design — to change its construction schedule and start on the area in front of City Hall and the Buncombe County Courthouse first, rather than on the Pack Square section of the park. Valley Crest agreed. But the change meant that the official paperwork, known as the “notice to proceed,” wasn’t finalized until Wednesday and back-dated to June 10.
“The notice starts the clock on the five weeks Valley Crest says it needs” to complete preliminary work, such as surveying, before actual construction can start, conservancy Executive Director Marilyn Geiselman told the board during its meeting today on the fifth floor of the BB&T building. That means construction on the section of the park known as “the green” will begin, at the latest, on July 15, she said. Construction on the Pack Square portion of the park is still being negotiated, but will probably being in mid-August.
In other news from the board’s meeting:
• Board Chair Carol King urged members to make fund-raising a priority. The conservancy lacks about $4.6 million in funding, King said. “This is the first day of the rest of the park. We need to put a priority on building the park and raising money,” she said.
• A timeline of key construction dates should be finalized next week, according to Geiselman.
• Board members talked about putting together a public-relations blitz and teaming up with other key players. The Partners in the Park initiative will get organized at a July 10 meeting, board member Karen Tessier said.
• The conservancy has asked well-known fresco painter Ben Long to lead an effort to paint a 6-foot-tall wooden construction fence that will run along College Street.
• The future location of the Energy Loop, Asheville’s first piece of public sculpture, remains an unresolved issue. The board plans to send a letter to the city’s public-art board detailing three sites within the park that the conservancy deems suitable.
• Valley Crest has been awarded a $7.5 million contract to perform a variety of work on the 6.5-acre park that will include water features, landscaping and performance stages. The construction on this phase is scheduled to be complete in September 2009.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor