Pack Square Conservancy is entering the final phase of infrastructure work on Pack Square Park. Each incremental bit of progress has been met with enthusiasm throughout the project, and paving carried out Friday afternoon in front of the Asheville Art Museum was celebrated by
staffers who are looking forward to having the new park at their front door.
The Conservancy now anticipates that favorable weather will allow the project to progress more rapidly throughout the spring and summer. The crew will complete infrastructure work in south Pack Square and make its way around the west end of the square, winding up with work in front of the I.M. Pei building. It is anticipated that the infrastructure phase will be complete sometime between May 31 and July 31, weather permitting.
While the infrastructure phase brought a few unanticipated challenges, all aspects of the design and construction of the park are moving forward in a normal fashion. “When you begin digging in an area that has been dug over so many times, you never know what you will find,” says Conservancy board chair Carol King. “We encountered unmapped duct banks and pavement a yard thick in some areas. Such surprises are just part of the process, and you take care of them and move on.”
As the Conservancy goes forward with the project, it has adopted a set of thoughtful construction protocols in order to ensure the integrity of this significant area. These provisions are part of an agreement between the Conservancy and the North Carolina Department of Transportation and other government agencies that have a role in the project as a result of the $3.8 million in federal funding that Congress has approved for the park. “We have been fortunate to obtain a commitment for funds from the Department of Transportation,” says King, “and we are happy to work with them to make sure that our plans reflect the importance of the park site.”
Provisions that have been adopted include some that were already in place, such as recycling granite curbing that was previously in the park site and planting trees and shrubs native to Western North Carolina. The Conservancy also has agreed to include historic images of Pack Square in the park, to have an archaeologist on call as work continues, and to update the city’s survey of historic downtown buildings.
The next step in the project is the bidding process for the park improvements phase and the pavilion. The park improvements phase is scheduled to go out to bid in July. Once the Conservancy selects the winning bid, it will notify representatives of NCDOT, who will review the bid before issuing an order to proceed. Construction on the park improvements is expected to begin in the fall. Conservancy board members familiar with federal funding noted that the timeline for the approval process is typical of other projects on which they have worked.
The pavilion design is now nearing completion and the Conservancy hopes to put that out to bid by late summer.
In April, the Conservancy will estimate costs for the new pavilion design and re-estimate the park improvements costs. This is deemed important because costs on construction materials have increased since the original estimates because of hurricane damage on the Gulf Coast and increased demand from abroad. Having new estimates in place will help the Conservancy evaluate bids that come in for the final two phases of the project.
The Conservancy continues to raise money for the 6.5-acre park and to work with stakeholders to minimize the impact of construction. “We’re proud to have so many good partners in this undertaking,” says King. “Many of them have donated money for the park, and others are people who work around the park site. They deal with issues associated with construction on a daily basis. I’m sure they get frustrated at times, yet they are full of encouragement and hope. They know that Pack Square Park will be an extraordinary asset to our downtown and our community.”