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Matthew

Civic Center Discussion

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Does anyone have an update on the plans for a new Civic Center and Performing Arts Center? I know an architect was hired last year (Crawford Murphy) and a site was selected (Renaissance Hotel Parking Lot), but this project has been out of the news lately? That site is an excellent location, we need a new Performing Arts Center and a new Civic Center and this project could have an even bigger impact than the old GPI Tower proposal! A new Civic Center would have 6,000 seats, 6 luxury suites and the new performing arts center could reach 2,400 seats in a post-modern design! Both would be in seperate new construction buildings. There was also talk of demolishing the current Civic Center to renovate the current Wolfe Auditorium and build a new Asheville's tallest, somewhere between 20-30 floors in height! All residential of course. ;) They would also built an entertianment center, with a new hotel and some low-rise office space.

This was such an exciting project last year and I would like an update if anyone has one? The old Civic Center is not built to current minor league hockey standards and needs new wiring if they want to continue to host major concerts there. I have an old 1970's construction photo of the building. I need some webspace so I can share it. :(

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At long last, the Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts has a website up. ( www.ashevilleperformingarts.org ) If you're not familiar, this is the group working to turn the current Civic Center into a top-notch performing arts center.

Unfortunately, it would appear to accomplish this goal, it would mean chasing out the arena portion of the Civic Center, leaving a venue able to accommodate such things as the circus or major concerts to try to find a location elsewhere. There's a lot of clamor for such a facility to locate in the suburbs, and one particularly persistent advocate, wants it located in Fletcher, at the Ag Center, or on the site of the failing Biltmore Square Mall.

Of course, others are working to locate an arena downtown or in the River District, and I've spoken out against locating any major facility in a suburb lest we invite another explosion of suburban sprawl in a city that has too much of that to begin with.

Getting back to the PAC, however, what do you think of the conceptual drawings? They're too modern for my tastes personally because modern architecture of this type is such a cliche. Every new civic building these days is an overbearing glass box with unecessary angles to relieve the motony. Ironically enough though, there are links to several successful PAC's on which an Asheville center would like to model itself. One of these is the incredible and very ornate Bass Center in Fort Worth Texas, which was completed in 1998, yet features 30-foot-tall limestone statues of angels blowing trumpets on its facade. That's the kind of architecture we need in Asheville -- not yet another uninspired beotch son of the Akzona Building beamed down from Charlotte or Raleigh.

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No doubt the fate of the Asheville Civic Center has been debated for years. It should be easy to admit the facility is showing its age and had not been a strong draw for sports entertainment and permonances in recent years. Perhaps this could be some factor why the Asheville Smoke (UHL) and the Asheville Altitude (NBA Development League) had brief stays.

Asheville and western North Carolina deserves a modern arena-like facility for major concerts and sports entertainment. How to do that remains a mystery.

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It's kind of hard to say exactly what they want the facility to look like. I agree that monumental, egghead modern architecture designed to do nothing but make a statement has no place in Asheville. Something friendly and livable is what we need. I don't see enough renderings on the website to indicate whether or not that's what they are proposing.

I see the PAC wants to completely replace both the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium AND the Civic Center with a large performing arts complex. I wonder how well loss of the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium would go over. That's a historic building, isn't it? Although it was remodeled significantly when they built the Civic Center in the late 70s. The backstage area is entirely inadequate right now, but I wonder if it's possible to renovate the current Thomas Wolfe Auditorium into something more modern.

I like the idea of separating the auditorium from the arena. Having both in the same place hasn't really been synergistic, beyond the sharing of a box office. An arena could go somewhere downtown better suited to handle large crowds, while a performing arts center could be made a little more intimate with its surroundings.

For a performing arts venue, there are a couple of options. The current location on Haywood is great. I also like the idea in the Citizen-Times guest commentary about building the facility on the Renaissance Hotel parking lot, facing Pack Square. Tough choice.

The arena is a difficult problem. The current one has to go, no question. Whether or not we even need an arena - and if we do, where it should go, is tough. For a number of reasons, the river district would not be a good place for an arena, and conversely an arena would not be a good thing for the river district. Suburbs? Um, no. So, we're left with downtown. But where?

Somewhere readily accessible and visible from I-240, but not too central would be best. The civic center site is certainly visible from 240, and a larger arena is certainly possible if we demolish Thomas Wolfe and grow into the space. Other options... how about Woodfin Street?

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Well what (besides the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium) could be demolished or moved to make room for the new civic center?

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I'm the one who wrote that guest commentary about building the PAC on the Renaissance lot, and I still feel convinced thats' where it ought to go. It would be easier to build a PAC there, because those tend to be smaller and can fit on a smaller parcel of land, whereas an arena, which we do need, will need a lot the likes of which you probably can't find downtown. Therefore, what we ought to do is build a PAC from the ground up in that prime location and renovate the Civic Center to serve as an arena.

Unfortunately, we're likely looking at a PAC project that whose first and foremost concern is cost. Whenever you get into that kind of situation you're virtually assured of a building that will be adequate but little else. It will serve its purpose but people will feel indifferent about it at best and will likely hate it outright. And if we're going to aim for that, we might as well just renovate the Civic Center's interior and leave the facade alone, and save everyone a lot of fuss and money.

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I just sent the following email to Sidney Powell, president of the organization trying to get this thing built.

---

Dear Ms. Powell,

It's been exciting to see the Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts website come online recently, which makes it so much easier to follow developing news on this exciting project.

I notice in the organization's annual report a mention that the actual facade of a new PAC would be chosen by the community. That's very heartening because, as exciting as it would be to finally have the world-class performing arts center Asheville deserves, to be perfectly honest, the conceptual drawings depict an incredibly unnatractive building. They show the sort of "high-concept" architecture that strives for modernity for its own sake. They show an overbearing glass box with unnecessary angles to relieve the monotony. This is the same sort of concept by which the original Civic Center was built, and like the current Civic Center, such a building will look hopelessly outdated within a decade. It will then decline to outright ugliness, as did the Civic Center, as time wears on. It is neither timeless nor inspiring.

I note that links to other successful performing arts centers are provided on the site, and one such center is the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, TX. What an awesome building! Such beautiful materials, and such majestic statuary! This is the kind of building that Asheville deserves, because not only will age in the most graceful of ways, but it pays homage, as it should, to this city's extraordinary collection of ornate historic buildings. I sincerely hope that a similar, regal concept is to be included in the options from which the public will choose.

And if a pair of limestone angels blowing trumpets could be worked into the concept, I certainly wouldn't complain.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I'm nothing but excited about this performing arts center, but let's please take pains to make it beautiful! You need look no farther than the Bass Hall for the perfect example to follow.

Sincerely,

Me

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There's a big article in today's Citizen-Times, with plenty of PDFs for reference, about the state of the city's quest for a new civic center.

This article talks about possible sites for an arena. The civic center has identified these six sites as the best alternatives (and my opinion of the sites):

civiccenterlocations.jpg

A. Current civic center site (map)

Downtown location but the topography and lot size are big constraints. I'd rather see a performing arts center go here.

B. Patton Avenue downtown gateway (map)

The best alternative of the ones given. Definitely downtown, but in an area not likely to be redeveloped any time soon.

C. South of City-County Plaza (map)

Great location, but these lots are already seeing developer interest and I wouldn't take that away.

D. Innsbruck Mall (map)

Interesting thought, just across the tunnel from downtown in an older auto-oriented commercial area that is just starting to densify and redevelop.

E. Biltmore Square Mall (map)

Perhaps this would bring some life to the commercial area down there but it's just too far from the city center.

F. Brevard Rd & I-240 (map)

Absolutely no amenities within walking distance, so not a good idea.

Aerials of each site are available in this PDF.

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City council made their decision about the future of the Civic Center...repair it and "modernize" it. I first saw it on News 13, but Citizen-Times put up an article with more detail. Personally, I'm disappointed with city council's decision. I wish we could have a new arena constructed, but it looks like that won't ever happen.

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If I understand the article correctly, this is the option I preferred most -- turning the Civic Center into an arena for sports and large-scale performances, and building a new performing arts center elsewhere downtown.

The city obviously needs both, and could support both, especially if the Civic Center wasn't a soul-sucking dump as it is now.

Then again, this is just getting the center up to code. I agree with the councilmembers. Even if a new arena AND a new PAC were to be built, things are going to be happening in the Civic Center for years until one or both of those new facilities is ready to roll. We may end up with two new facilities, one, or none. My hope though is that the Civic Center becomes an arena, and a new PAC goes up near City Hall.

Until that decision is made, and until something else gets built, at least no more pieces of the roof are going to fall in on Allison Kraus again.

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New article about the Performing Arts center in the C-T today. Theater consultants: Dream big/ Group advocates Asheville performing arts center

The group wants to see a new performing arts center with somewhere around 2300 seats (HUGE!!) and the flexibility to handle all sorts of events, from workshops to Broadway shows to musical performances. The location would be downtown, probably on Pack Square, and the cost would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $85 million.

I can't see this decision happening any time soon, as Concil just bought a couple more years by doing essential, overdue renovations on the existing civic center. Sounds like a nice plan, though I might be inclined to say 2300 seats is a bit too big for Asheville - I'd rather have a high quality, more intimate, smaller venue than a cavernous place that never sells out and feels empty all the time.

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According to these articles, City Council has elected to reserve the two parcels south of Parkside (block of Marjorie, Spruce, Eagle, and Davidson) as the site for a future performing arts center to take the place of the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. The center is projected to cost $85 million. The performing arts center would take up 1.4 acres of the ~2.4 acre block, leaving 1 acre for other development, such as shops, offices, and/or residences.

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According to a short article in the newest issue of the Mountain Express:

"An upbeat Asheville Civic Center Commission received several pieces of welcome news at their Dec. 2 meeting, including a green light for work to finally begin on replacing the roof of the arena and concourse."

...

"In other business, commission members were introduced to James Baudoin, the new executive director of the Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts and the project manager for the proposed Performance Center of Asheville, which the group is spearheading."

So, it seems some work is going to be done on the civic center in the near future.

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In other words - looks like they've decided to stick with the existing arena, but they're pursuing a replacement for the Thomas Wolfe. I think this is the right decision. Looks like the performing arts center project is being spearheaded by a private group that's raising its own funds. That's nice, but the other major project downtown that's been managed like this is Pack Square Park, and I'll eat my hat if that one's done a day before 2010 (that would be... 6 years of construction!)

Hopefully they won't leave the performing arts center completely in the hands of a citizen group that lacks the leverage and resources to get it done in a reasonable timeframe.

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In other words - looks like they've decided to stick with the existing arena, but they're pursuing a replacement for the Thomas Wolfe. I think this is the right decision. Looks like the performing arts center project is being spearheaded by a private group that's raising its own funds. That's nice, but the other major project downtown that's been managed like this is Pack Square Park, and I'll eat my hat if that one's done a day before 2010 (that would be... 6 years of construction!)

Hopefully they won't leave the performing arts center completely in the hands of a citizen group that lacks the leverage and resources to get it done in a reasonable timeframe.

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Seems like a good site for a performing arts center. Is the adjacent church supportive of this project?

In regards to the Civic Center, I believe they are working on the roof now.

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I cant believe its taken six years to build Pack Square Park! That's crazy ... couldn't we have used inmates from the jails or something to speed it up!! lol what do they have like two guys and a goat putting it together? lol :huh:

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