Council mulls new downtown projects
by Anna Oakes
At its meeting Thursday, the council unanimously approved a $6,500 contract for a streetscape improvement concept plan from Virginia-based urban architect Glave & Holmes, the firm behind the pedestrian-friendly Wall Street remodel in Asheville.
The original Howard Street Project plan, for which hundreds of thousands of dollars has already been spent in design fees, was to include sidewalks, curb and gutter, water and sewer improvements, streetlights, plantings, benches and other features.
As a temporary solution, the town last year painted in bicycle and pedestrian lanes on both sides of Howard Street from Water Street to Appalachian Street, and the section from Depot to Water Street became a one-way street.
During budget discussions this spring, the council verbally committed to a low-build alternative for Howard Street that could include bicycle and pedestrian improvements, plantings and other amenities while forgoing major improvements such as water and sewer and perhaps curb and gutter.
"This is what we can do with what we have," said Boone Downtown Development Coordinator Pilar Fotta, referring to the town's existing right of way along Howard Street.
Andrew Moore of Glave & Holmes visited Boone in June and discussed opportunities with Fotta and Councilwomen Lynne Mason and Jamie Leigh. Moore's initial thoughts support one-way streets for the length of downtown Howard Street, with the section from Depot to Water traveling west and the section from Depot Street to Appalachian Street traveling east, if supported by findings from a traffic study, council members and staff explained.
"Normally I'm against any one-ways, but on this street I think maybe this is what we need to do," said Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson.
"I think this is just an excellent opportunity to finally do something for Howard Street improvements," said Leigh.
The council also discussed the installation of streetlights on the north side of King Street. Boone Public Works Director Blake Brown said the project, which would also require the replacement and widening of sidewalks, would cost approximately $290,000.
The town's streetscape plan calls for brick bordering along new sidewalk installations downtown and solid brick in the four corners of the King and Depot streets.
Leigh also asked about ways to improve the area between the Jones House and the Mast General Store. Brown said the town could take away one parking space along the street to provide an expanded area for handicap-accessible parking, widen the sidewalk in that corner and create a handicap-accessible ramp.
Fotta said the Downtown Boone Development Association has approximately $90,000 to appropriate to improvement projects downtown that could be used to share in costs with the town.
The town directed Brown to develop cost estimates for a phase of the lighting, sidewalk and handicap-accessible space improvements from Appalachian Street to Depot Street.