Town Manager John Ward Updates DBDA on ‘Howard Street Enhancement Project’

Published Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 2:35 pm

By Jesse Wood

The “Howard Street Enhancement Project” is underway, and Boone Town Manager John Ward gave the Downtown Boone Development Association (DBDA) an update on the project yesterday.

Just before Thanksgiving, the Town of Boone announced that it had approved a contract with Davenport Engineering to develop construction plans and to oversee the proposed project along the two block stretch of Howard Street in between Appalachian and Water streets. Properties along Howard Street are currently being surveyed by the town, and the town intends to work around easements it currently has in place.

The stretch of Howard Street in between Water and Depot streets is already one-way with a wide pedestrian and bike path, so Ward said that he’s currently discussing with property owners along the stretch of Howard Street in between Appalachian and Depot streets, which isn’t currently one way.

“[We’ll] have some additional discussions that will add to our initial concepts of taking Howard Street one way, so that we can compact more into the entire area from Appalachian Street all the way back to Water Street,” Ward told the DBDA on Tuesday. “Half of that’s already been done.”

Business owners like Pete Catoe of ECRS and Fulton Lovin of Pads for Grads, both of which operate on Howard Street, are against turning this stretch of road into a one-way street. This summer when the matter was before the Boone Town Council, Lovin said he was concerned about the backlog of traffic during rush hour as students exit Raley Parking lot on the campus of ASU and Catoe said that turning Howard Street and Appalachian Street one way would “will negatively impact business, cause delays with employees’ commutes, and increase safety risks.”

But Ward told the DBDA, “Both the traffic study and safety study and everything is pointing to where we can have more event space and be more safer.”

The Town of Boone held a workshop in June for the members of the public to attend and learn more about the project. On hand were representatives of Glave Holmes Architecture and Davenport Engineering.

Glave Holmes Architecture designed plans around a “shared-space” concept, which is popular in Europe and accommodates all modes of transportation – pedestrian, cyclists and motorists – on equal footing.

In the meeting, Frank Amenya, director of traffic engineering with Davenport, noted that the most frequent transportation mode used along Howard Street is foot traffic, and the Davenport study recommended turning Howard Street one way going westbound and Appalachian Street one way heading southbound.

“Pedestrians are the king of the road,” Amenya said of Howard Street in June.

On Tuesday, Ward said that this project will also complement what’s happening at the western end of downtown. The town has already secured easements for a greenway along the creek near the old Southern States property, which will eventually turn into a mixed-use development. The greenway would run all the way to county-owned property that features the health department and social services.

Ward mentioned that he is in discussions with Appalachian State officials about doing away with the dead end of Howard Street, which occurred around the time the ASU parking deck was constructed several years ago.

He said App State is “looking at making [Howard Street] a major gateway to complement what the town and DBDA has already started working on on the Howard Street project.”

The project consists of much more than just turning it into a one-way street.

According to a prior release, “The intent of the proposed project is to upgrade existing water and sewer lines, upgrade the existing storm drainage system, provide efficient and safe accommodations for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles, and provide parking and loading areas for users and property owners. Landscape plantings, improved street lighting, concrete pavers and accessories such as bollards, kiosks and benches will be included to enhance the area’s appeal.”

Ward noted that part of the water and sewer upgrades include completing it in such a way that the lines can “accept additional water and sewer customers.” In the past months, Ward said he’s been approached monthly by folks interested in expanding or doing some type of development along Howard Street because of this proposed enhancement project.

The Howard Street project is still in the design phase, and topographical and property boundary surveys began earlier this week. Once the survey work is complete, Boone will host a public workshop to solicit input and update the community on the project.

The first such public meeting is expected in February or March, Ward said.

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