DBDA board holds annual retreat
by Anna Oakes
The Downtown Boone Development Association board of directors met Wednesday for a spring retreat to discuss ongoing programs and to set priorities for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
As with last year's retreat, streetscape improvements and parking dominated the discussion. Town of Boone Downtown Coordinator Virginia Falck and Boone Cultural Resources Director Pilar Fotta asked DBDA members to prioritize projects and improvements for recommendation to the Boone Town Council.
The town contracts with the DBDA, a nonprofit, for administration of downtown tax revenues.
At the top of the list were parking meters. In 2010, the Boone Parking Task Force recommended parking meters on all major streets downtown. DBDA members have expressed support for meters and discontinuing the current validation stamp system, which voids parking citations for customers who can prove they were doing business downtown.
The Boone Town Council has discussed installing parking meters in a test area on a section of King Street near Capone's Pizza and First Baptist Church.
Sidewalks ranked second on the priority list. New sidewalks downtown will be concrete with a brick paver border, with full brick at the corners of the King and Depot streets intersection. The project will be financed jointly with downtown tax and town General Fund revenues.
The DBDA must decide whether it prefers that town staff install new sidewalks or that the project be contracted out. The town can do the work for less money, but it could take several years, as the Public Works Department has many other projects in town.
If the DBDA opts to hire a private contractor to complete the work in less time, the plan is that the DBDA would cover the costs over and above the in-house price. Several DBDA board members expressed their preference to spend the money to get the project done sooner.
DBDA board members also seemed to prefer that all streetscape improvements -- sidewalks, meters, trees and streetlights -- be completed together in sections rather than piece by piece.
"We want sidewalks, trees and meters at the same time," said DBDA board member Bob Meier.
The third highest priority to the board is keeping the town's Jones House Community Center open on Saturdays and Sundays for public use of its restrooms. Fotta said she is working to trim other DBDA budget lines to help fund Jones House staff hours for weekends.
Revenue from the downtown (Municipal Service District) tax is projected at approximately $112,436 for fiscal year 2013-14. In addition, the DBDA currently has $164,000 in undesignated funds. If the DBDA sets aside about $40,000 as a reserve, that leaves about $124,000 that the DBDA can use to partner with the town on improvement projects, Fotta said.
The DBDA board also received an update on the Appalachian Theatre project.
The town of Boone purchased the Appalachian Twin, a movie theater on King Street built in 1938, in a foreclosure sale in late 2011 for $624,000. The town agreed to loan the money for the purchase to the Downtown Boone Development Association for three years.
Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, a new nonprofit, will manage the theater as an arts and events venue and raise the funds necessary for the building's restoration.
"Things are going very well. Super," said Dempsey Wilcox, DBDA board chairman.
A capital campaign raising funds for the theater's purchase, renovation and startup costs is currently in the silent phase, with plans to go public this summer. Bettie Bond, a member of the campaign cabinet, expressed confidence that the theater will open in 2015.