By Nathan Ham
At a special Boone Town Council meeting last month, the University of North Carolina School of Government shared plans on new development proposals linking downtown Boone with Appalachian State University.
Through the Development Finance Initiative Program, the UNC School of Government works with communities throughout North Carolina to “attract private investment for transformative projects by providing specialized finance and real estate development expertise.”
Parking has always been an issue brought forward by Boone residents, App State students, business owners and everyone in between.
“As we were brainstorming and coming up with different ideas, there were two main options discussed for potential parking decks,” said John Ward, the Town Manager of Boone. “One of the options was the King Street long term lot next to town hall and as we did the assessments of that, it was determined that the size of the lot become prohibitive because it’s not large enough to warrant the cost of a parking deck.”
This proposed parking deck would have enough space for 182 cars on four floors and a retail area on street level.
“We started looking at other options and the other options are either on property owned by ASU or it is private property, so the town council requested that I initiate discussions with ASU on the site of the Peacock Hall lot next to the business school where ASU already indicated in their master plan a desire for a large parking deck,” said Ward. “So what we’ve done since then was reach out to Paul Forte with ASU and we’re in the process of setting up a planning meeting that would bring all the potential partners together to further explore the possibility.”
The parking deck would be similar to that in the 2025 ASU Master Plan that would be near the current Peacock Lot on App State’s campus, close enough to appease both students, faculty and visitors to downtown Boone. Parking improvements in the 2025 ASU Master Plan included a deck that would be much larger, allowing for an estimated 514 cars to park, as well as an 85-space parking lot with a storm water management system to lessen the impacts of flooding rains in the area.
The parking deck construction could potentially be a partnership between the Town of Boone and Appalachian State.
“I think the exciting thing about this is if we are successful in developing parking deck options with ASU, we could delineate certain levels for business parking during business hours and other levels delineated for ASU to use, and on high traffic days when we have large events, festivals and game days, we could open it up to everybody,” said Ward. “Our overall goal is to increase available parking in the downtown area and I do believe that a deck partnership would be a start to doing so.”
Ward said that the next step would be to use an architect or parking lot consultant to help determine what size parking deck would fit best there and then that information would be presented to Appalachian State and to the Boone Town Council.
“All of this would be part of our project working with the Development Finance Initiative Program through the N.C. School of Government to spur further improvements to help businesses in downtown Boone,” Ward added.
Another potential impact of partnering with App State for this parking deck would be the ability to expand town hall on King Street.
“If we are able to develop that deck option, that would potentially allow us to utilize the existing surface lot next to town hall for town hall expansion. So we would be able to bring town council meetings back into downtown,” said Ward.