By Jesse Wood
July 20, 2012. After years of attempting to acquire right of ways for an elaborate Howard Street transformation, the Boone Town Council decided to back up and punt, approving a concept design by the Virginia-based Glave and Holmes Architecture, that is, as Council Member Jamie Leigh called the plan, a “scaled-down version.”
Council members were ecstatic to finally be moving forward with the Howard Street improvement plan with public right of ways and properties owned by the Town of Boone and approved $6,500 for the streetscape improvement concept design.
“The other plan was so expensive,” Lynne Mason said. “This might fit more of the character that Howard Street is.”
And Leigh added, “It’s an exciting opportunity to do something on Howard Street at a reduced cost … this might be more suitable. Building out maybe wasn’t appropriate.”
Several weeks ago, Andrew Moore, director of urban architecture for Glaves and Holmes, strolled down Howard Street with Council Members Jamie Leigh and Lynne Mason and Pilar Fotta, downtown Boone development coordinator.
In a letter from Moore to Fotta, Moore said, “We will develop a streetscape concept for the entire two blocks of Howard Street, targeting improvements to pedestrian and bicycle circulation, additional plantings and general streetscape aesthetics.”
Though no concept has been “ironed out,” Mason added that Moore “referenced some European-design” features; focused on making the road more pedestrian and bicycle friendly; and pictured the road as a place to have festivals when streets are closed.
Town Manager Greg Young said Moore mentioned having one-way roads splitting at Depot Street and going in opposite direction – for Depot to Water streets and Depot to Appalachian streets.
“He had a variety, bounced around a number of ideas – low-build options that make the area more attractive,” Mason said.
Fotta added that the most “entertaining part” of Moore’s visit was that he didn’t want to change the character of the Howard Street.
“He said, ‘This is an alley. It can still look like an alley, but it can be a nice looking alley, not trying to make it something it wasn’t. It needs to still be what it is,’” Pillar said, adding that the character can be honored while making it better.
The plan should be completed by September.
Last August, the Town of Boone implemented a temporary plan when Boone Public Works painted a pedestrian walkway on Howard Street from Appalachian to Depot streets and incorporated a one-way road and pedestrian/cyclist path from Depot to Water streets.
The original plans for Howard Street that never evolved were estimated to cost $4.2 million dollars.
The first phase of the current concept plan to be designed by Glaves and Holmes has a budget of $190,000.
Other Downtown Streetscape Projects
The council members also discussed installing streetlights and widening the sidewalk from five feet to seven feet from Appalachian Street at Boone Bagelry to Water Street. Boone Public Works Director Blake Brown said the estimates were “a little high.”
The sidewalk would cost $100,000, and new streetlights with LED technology would cost $190,000. The wider sidewalks would push parking spaces out, Brown said, and council members discussed completing the project in sections. The project will also include inlay of brick at the four corners of King and Depot streets, similar to the bricks below the Doc Watson statue.
In another sidewalk project brought to the board’s attention by Council Member Jamie Leigh, Boone Public Works will examine the sidewalk in front of Mast General Store, which Leigh stated was “very difficult to maneuver and/or unsafe” in the meeting packet.
Brown suggested that the sidewalk be widened around the corner of the Mast General Store and a ramp for handicap accessibility be installed, which would require the loss of one parking space.
The council directed Brown to look into the cost and scope of these projects.