Pack Square Park takes shape with sod, fountain work

Pack Square Park got a green makeover today with the installation of nearly 18,000 square feet of sod. On Thursday, the park’s signature fountain will receive its crowning piece with the installation of a 20-foot-diameter brass ring.

About 7,500 square feet of turf was installed on the north side of the park in the center of Asheville last week, according to Donna Clark, the park’s spokeswoman. Nearly 18,000 square feet more was installed Tuesday on the area known as Roger McGuire green, in front of the Buncombe County Courthouse and Asheville City Hall. General contractor ValleyCrest Landscape Valley Development is overseeing the work as part of a $7.5 million contract for the bulk of remaining park construction.

An underground irrigation system turned on Tuesday began watering the grass, a special blend designed to withstand foot traffic, Clark said. While paved areas around the grass will be opened to the public in a few weeks, the grassy areas will remain off-limits to at least until the end of the year.

“The next four or five months are pretty critical in terms of getting it established,” Clark said. “We just need everybody to buy into that. It’s a long-term health issue” for the sod.

On Thursday, the park will see another construction milestone with the scheduled installation of a giant brass ring that while encircle a pile of big boulders on Pack Square. Asheville sculptor Hoss Haley chiseled the boulders and fabricated the ring to create a distinctive fountain. Patton Avenue at Pack Square will be closed from 6 to 10 a.m. for the work. The ring will be loaded onto a truck at his West Asheville studio and slowly trucked into downtown.

The 6.5-acre Pack Square Park is a $20 million project that’s been under construction since ground was broken in 2005.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor


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29 thoughts on “Pack Square Park takes shape with sod, fountain work

  1. A business owner whose establishment fronts on Pack Square said it best in a conversation with me the other day. “We had a park with a water feature. For $20 million they’ve created a park with a water feature.”

    As a member of City Council I will request a full, public audit of the Conservancy books. Millions of tax dollars have been poured into replacing green space with pavement, removing beautiful trees and putting the park out of commission for four years. As part of its grand design the Conservancy intends to end up with brand new offices for itself, and a competely unnecessary kiosk for tourist info. (Note to tourists: The overbuilt Chamber of Commerce is just off I-240 on Montford. Lots o’ info there.)

    I hope Stewart Coleman’s remodel of Hayes & Hopson will entice the Conservancy to put their offices and info booth in a genuine historic building, and leave us more grass and less concrete in OUR park.

  2. Jason Sandford

    Update on traffic disruption Thursday from the Pack Square Conservancy:

    Please note that Asheville sculptor Hoss Haley and his team will transport an 8,000-pound bronze ring from West Asheville to Pack Square tomorrow – July 16 – between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The ring is 18 – 20 feet across, and moving it will disrupt traffic briefly in several areas.

    The streets that will be affected are Haywood Road, Clingman Avenue, Patton Avenue and the Patton Avenue extension along the south Pack Square corridor.

    6 a.m. – The crew will load the structure onto a flatbed truck at Hoss’s studio, which will probably take an hour or so. The loading site is in West Asheville near the intersection where Haywood Road makes a 90-degree turn. The section of Haywood Road that will be affected is the stretch from that 90-degree turn eastward, down the hill and across the river to Clingman.

    The truck will follow that route down the hill to Clingman and on up the next hill to Patton Avenue. I’m sorry I can’t be precise about when the truck will be at various points on its journey. The crew will spend whatever time it takes to make sure the sculpture is secure and that it is moved with care. The Conservancy is working with the City and with NCDOT to make sure all formal requirements are met.

    Once the truck reaches Pack Square, it will park in front of SunTrust Bank and the Asheville Art Museum on the south side of the central oval, Oates Plaza. The crew is required to carry out the unloading process from that side of Oates Plaza because the short street on the north side sits over an underground parking garage.

    We believe the installation process will be completed by 10 a.m. Pack Square Conservancy appreciates the cooperation and patience of anyone affected by this transfer. Please urge your customers, employees and others to travel with care as they move through the area.

  3. orulz

    I certainly think that the Conservancy bungled the management of this project to an epic degree. I totally understand the frustration at the expense and the time involved.

    But I have to say, the new design is MUCH better than the old one. Are you sure your frustration with the management (above) isn’t making you think the new space is worse?

    Previously, this entire space basically served as a driveway and parking lot for City Hall and the courthouse. What little green space there was, was sliced up so severely by roads and parking spaces that it felt like a no-mans-land, except for the occasions when it was closed to traffic and used for a concert.

    So thumbs down to the management. Why the f**k is this taking 5 years to build? But thumbs up to the design. It feels more like a space meant for people now.

  4. While I don’t miss the former pavement in what is now called “Roger McGuire Green” (though looking at the photo, it ought to be called “Roger McGuire Pink” for the new pavement), that pavement could have been replaced with sod for a few tens of thousands of dollars. The new stage, with its weird columns that reflect neither the city nor county buildings, is amazingly limited. The old wooden stages that could be set up quickly and reconfigured to suit new events, were much more flexible than this new, locked-in design. Nothing about the shape of the park has changed in any significant way.

    So, granting lots of leeway on cost, I can imagine that eliminating the parking lot and replacing it with grass, plus using the wooden stages, would have cost the city/county as much as $100,000. Replacing the leaky fountain, let’s be really generous and go P0,000. (And this is REALLY generous.)

    So what did we gain with the other $18 million?

  5. John

    Cecil – I’m with you. This is an excellent example of our tax dollars being mistreated. I like the park, but the price tag is over the top and they are getting away with it.

    And some people want the gov’t to manage our health care. Get ready to hurry up and wait.

  6. orulz

    The niceness of a park, particularly an urban park, is not measured by how much of its area is covered by grass. In a downtown area like this, hardspace (Basically, plaza space) is just as important if not more so than grassy space. First of all, grass sucks to walk on in the morning (dew) and after rain. Second, put down grass in a high traffic area and you’ll be left with dirt in a couple months. Third, it’s harder to maintain and uses a bunch of water. Ever notice how the National Mall in Washington continually looks like s**t?

    If you want to have a real downtown gathering place for people, hardspace is a necessity.

    In any case. The new design has MORE grass than the old setup, and the pavers are for PEOPLE rather than CARS.

  7. 9-volt

    The new park design is 100% better than the old.

    A lot of citizens donated 100’s of hours of their time to improve the center of our town, and despite the extra time and money, I feel it is worth it. It will be a place our town will enjoy for generations.

  8. I guess that was the technique, give us crappy design, take years to implement it and then we will be happy with what ever there is as long as it is finished. That amphitheater is silly looking. With 18 million we could have planted full size oaks in that space. Why will the conservancy have a permanent office by the park or anywhere. Cecil I must admit that I disagree with you on some issues, but your correct view on this issue just might sway my vote.

  9. 9-volt

    interesting. my vote maybe swayed the other way because of this issue. but hey, there’s plenty of local screaming matches between now and then.

  10. I won’t ever insist that my taste is a standard or my opinions correct, but neither am I inclined to mask my views. I’ll be one of 7 voices on council reacting to 70,000 bosses and hopefully will help distill majority opinion into practical reality.

    What I will insist on is public accountability. Hence in this matter, I want to see a full accounting of where the money went. City taxpayers paid millions into this project while the top two floors of city hall became uninhabitable due to roof leaks and we are renting private office space elsewhere for city departments. (As a builder I have always understood that no project is ever more urgent than a leaking roof. It is the biggest source of serious structural damage in almost every type of building.)

  11. Spouting Horn

    $20 million dollars? Think about how many jobs that created? We should have spent $40 million, to get double the bang for the buck.

    Remember what Joe Biden says…we have to spend our way out of this hole to avoid bankruptcy.

  12. Clark Mackey

    The columns are weird. I don’t get them at all and I’d love to hear the architect explain how they came about. Instead of tying things together they look like a satire of a Greek ruin.

  13. Bjorn

    Personally I’m surprised the park wasn’t sold to developers for a condo or hotel. I wonder what George Willis Pack would think about all of this, including an 8,000 pound bronze ring?

  14. hauntedheadnc

    To those of you who have mentioned the columns, it’s my understanding from conversations with people on the Pack Square Conservancy that once the pergola is in place, vines will be planted to grow up the columns and onto the pergola. It would seem to me they didn’t go all out on the columns (and thank God they didn’t, because that would have added another 15 million and eight years to the project), because they’ll end up hidden by greenery anyway.

    Count me among those who think this park is a major improvement, but it should have been done in half the time for a third the cost. There are elementary school kids who can’t remember when the heart of downtown wasn’t a mud pit.

  15. 9-volt

    Nope, not because Cecil is asking for accountability, that is reasonable. It is the lack of understanding shown about the park design, the lack of value Cecil appears to have for improving urban places, and the short-sighted whining that seems to go with any public project.

    The new park has more green space not less, more trees not less, more continuous gathering space and less asphalt. No one has even used the new park yet and it is already deemed a waste of money…sheesh.

  16. I hope I did not give the wrong impression, the park is an improvement, unfortunately in my opinion it is not as good as it could be, and it took far to long and there is the insane cost aspect. I sure wish we could get rid of the fire department and put a big condo building there instead. It seems strange to have the fire department in such a poor place and to have to design a park around the fire truck access. Surely Coleman could put a deal together, buy the fire department and with the proceeds we can build one in a better location, one where we do not have fire trucks running through the heart of town unless there is a fire there.

    9-volt do you understand the park design? Not being a smart ass, genuinely curious. I thought Cecil’s comment about a multi-use stage was very in line with current thinking with urban parks and plazas. With such limited amount of large green space downtown I wish this one had a little more flex.

  17. whoa, I’m all for improving urban spaces. I’m sure that if I had been given permission to eliminate the parking in city/county plaza and reconfigure parking in the vicinity of the front of the courthouse and city hall, I could have done it for $500,000 tops, and donated the excess $400,000 to other good projects in our city.

    fixing the pavement problem in city/county was a no-brainer, rip it out, plant grass. nothing I have seen in the overall conservancy plan has otherwise “improved” our park. The more we cast our park in stone (or concrete) the less flexibility it has. Will the fancy new fountain permit rubber rafts, as in Bele Cheres of yore? Or wading? Will the new massive stage facilitate the people-to-people energy of Shindig-on-the-Greens I loved in the 80s? Or is it all about big productions?

    I believe we have created a lackluster simulacrum of a public park that will be far less useful than the park we trashed. For $20 million. This was not a small mistake. It amounts to a catastrophe. At OUR expense.

  18. 9-volt

    Cecil, buddy, “rip it out, plant grass” is really the extent of your vision for a new park design for the center Asheville? I appreciate your frugality, but we are talking about the most important piece of land in the city.

    If you can overhaul a 6.5 acre park for $500,000 including fountain renovation, the reconfiguration of streets, storm drainage, parking, plaza and sidewalks, maybe add some trees, benches, and local art….you absolutely have my vote as the next contractor the city should hire!

    The stage design (on paper) is my least favorite part of the park, however, the old plywood platforms that have to be painted, maintained, stored, replaced, etc. doesn’t sound good. The best part of shindig is the pickin in the crowd and I too hope that never changes!

    We are many months away from being able to experience the new park, I hope when it’s done folks will appreciate it more and we can all enjoy some old time booty shaking together!

  19. Frank Degado

    “I liked it better the way it was. What a waste of time and money.” Agreed Susan. But you know the transplants from up north feel good about making Asheville into what they left behind. Of course, we have to pay the bill. I also liked it as it was. I liked it when Shindig on the Green was before the courthouse, not way out at MLK Park. Oh well, I just hope the transplants don’t completely ruin this town.

  20. And on tonights episode of “name that buffoon”

    I can name Frank Degado as good ol cullen in one posting.

  21. Piffy!

    [b]I can name Frank Degado as good ol cullen in one posting. [/b]

    Dont forget “Susan”, the person he is agreeing with. That’s him, too. He agrees with his alternate personalities a lot.

    Can you imagine if all of them could vote? He’d be mayor!

  22. babaoreilly

    Using the mismanagement of local tax dollars for a downtown park as a reason to take a stab at government run health care is disingenuous or ignorant at best. I’m not sure how one extrapolates that conclusion. The same “bad government” you bad mouth is the same one that funds roads, libraries, parks, education, science, space exploration, law, molecular research, nano technology, national and state parks, etc etc.
    Sure, government has a lot of stupid attributes, bureaucracy being something that comes to mind quickly, but I’d rather have an entity that didn’t make profit it’s number one concern provide me health choices than some seedy corporation with cleverly worded contracts that end up screwing me over because shareholders need another yacht. My neighbors sat in the emergency room last night for 9 hours waiting to be seen, while a man with three cut off fingers sat there with them the entire time. Wow, let’s here it for privatized, market-based health care.

  23. John

    “funds roads, libraries, parks, education, science, space exploration, law, molecular research, nano technology, national and state parks, etc etc.”

    These are noble causes no doubt. However, you cannot claim they are models of efficiency. When you dig deep, you find that all of the projects you mentioned have horrid efficiency records. They do produce results, but at an extreme cost. The comparison to them trying to run health care is very applicable.

  24. localvocal

    Why was this money spent on a stage, instead of the upkeep of our city? This money could have gone much further in providing full time employment for city workers and cleaned up the trash in and around city county plaza. The conservancy needs to be audited and explain to the citizens why this amount of money was spent…it’s ridiculous, what a waste !

  25. localvocal

    I think City County Plaza should be renamed…

    “City County DollyWood”

    Yep, we need more pavement to help along the global warming and the veterans need a giant rock…please! This is the worst planning I’ve ever seen!
    What we really need is more green space and the veterans need some real help, not a big rock.

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