By Jesse Wood
Boone Town Council Member Lynne Mason updated the Downtown Boone Development Association on how the Howard Street improvement project, which is still in the conception phase, is progressing.
In December, the Town of Boone announced that conceptual plans of the project are viewable at Town Hall. Those plans are also viewable online on the town’s meeting portal website.
The project includes landscape enhancements, additional bike lanes and sidewalks, a parking deck (listed as “by others” on the plans), water and sewer infrastructure improvements, relocating power poles, one-waying all of Howard Street for vehicular traffic and more.
“The town is getting ready to put out the final drawings for the project,” Mason said, adding that there is still time to give the Boone Town Council feedback on the conceptual plans before the final drawings are drawn.
The construction drawings phase of the project is expected to take about six months to complete.
“The next step after the drawings is to put it out to bid and figure out how to fund it all,” Mason said.
Mason said the project will be split into two phases or sections along Howard Street – Water to Depot streets and Depot to Appalachian streets. She noted that the town is working with Appalachian State along portions of Howard Street.
The first phase involves relocating the power poles on Howard Street from Depot to Water streets to the back alley that runs behind Murphy’s Restaurant and Pub to Shoppes at Farmers Hardware.
The utilities will then be put underground at the proposed Marketplace redevelopment, which is a mixed-use project featuring a parking deck developed by John Winkler, Kenneth Wilcox and Roger Wright.
As for the second phase from Depot to Appalachian streets, Town Manager John Ward confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that this phase is “in the works to determine the price for going fully underground.”
“Once we get a price we will further evaluate our options” Ward said.
Mason and Loretta Clawson, another council member in attendance at the DBDA meeting on Tuesday morning, were both enthusiastic about this project’s progress as of late.
Mason mentioned that the project finally has some “momentum” and Clawson noted that Howard Street improvements have been a “long-time coming,” probably two decades or more by now.
Just in recent memory, the town implemented one-way traffic from Depot to Water streets and installed a pedestrian path in 2011. The conveyance of easements by all property owners along Howard Street and the initial $4.5 price tag for an elaborate transformation along Howard Street caused the project to come to a halt.
In 2012, the Boone Town Council scaled down its plans and entered into a contract with Glave and Holmes Architecture. In 2013, the council contracted with Davenport Engineering for a traffic study, which offered recommendations that weren’t favored by everyone. (In the summer of 2015, the town held a community input session about the project; a recap of that meeting can be read here.)
The concept plan calls for additionally making Howard Street one-way, heading westbound, from Appalachian Street to Water Street. Currently, Howard Street is only one way from Depot to Water streets.
When the Davenport Engineering study was conducted last year recommending that route, community members said the plan would have a dramatic impact on traffic flow, especially as ASU traffic exits Peacock Hall Lot (formerly known as Raley) onto Howard Street during rush hour.
The Peackock Hall Lot also is accessed from Rivers Street. (App State’s Draft Master Plan 2025 has plans for a wrapped parking deck with retail on Howard Street in the Peacock Hall Lot.) The town’s Howard Street conceptual drawings show that relocation of the ingress/egress of the Peacock Hall Lot on Howard Street will be relocated and aligned with Appalachian Street, which is now planned (though not initially) to stay two-way.
Lynne Mason said that the town is looking into options, such as a UNC School of Government program that fosters private investment or a joint public/private partnership, “to help spur redevelopment on Howard Street for some of the more blighted properties.”
“Hopefully, [the future improvements on Howard Street] will end up being a really major overhaul,” Mason said, adding that this would not only beautify but increase the tax base for the town, as well, for years to come.
These conceptual plans, depicted in the photos below, are viewable in Town Hall and also in the town’s online meeting portal for Dec. 2016.