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(From the Asheville Citizen-Times 10/25/03)

Designer: Proposed high-rise won't harm park concept

By Mark Barrett, Staff Writer

ASHEVILLE - Pack Square and City-County Plaza can become a much more attractive park regardless of whether the Grove Park Inn puts luxury condominiums on the area's north side, one of the designers of a planned reconfiguration of the area said Friday.

"I believe you can have a great space either way," said landscape architect Fred Bonci, of Pittsburgh-based LaQuatra Bonci Associates. Bonci spoke before a crowd of about 125 at Pack Place on principles of creating attractive parks and public spaces.

But many people are worried that the inn's proposed 10- story high-rise on publicly owned land will intrude on green space and diminish the charm of the city's center.

The nonprofit Pack Square Conservancy, which sponsored Bonci's talk, has been assigned by Asheville and Buncombe County leaders to raise money for a reconfiguration of the plaza into a large park. Current plans call for creating a large lawn a few yards in front of City Hall and the county courthouse and removing a portion of Patton Avenue that runs diagonally to College Street.

Small plazas and parking would be located immediately in front of both government buildings and a stage would be on the east end of the lawn.

Several people who heard Bonci speak Friday said they like park plans but differed over the inn's proposal.

Joan Farrell of Asheville said she doesn't have a problem with the building and thinks the park plans are "fabulous. I can't wait for them to make this beautiful park that is just so much more friendly than what we have now."

Elizabeth Pou of Asheville likes the park but added, "I'm not sure it's at all enhanced by the erection of a . high- rise."

Work on the park is scheduled for 2005 and 2006, said an official with Pack Square Conservancy.

Once the park project is completed, "There's going to be a sense that you have more park than you do now even though you're taking land away for the (inn's) building," Bonci said. "It's going to be better organized, it's going to be more contiguous. . Right now you have all those little broken up lawn areas."

A 2000 plan for the park called for a multistory residential building with restaurants and offices on the ground level 0n the spot where the Grove Park Inn proposes to build.

But a revised plan released in 2001 called for green space in that area with a fountain and possibly a small building that might contain public restrooms.

Bonci said at that time designers made the shift due to public comments: "What we heard was more park."

On Friday, he said the inn's building would mean changes to that 2001 plan but would not harm the overall concept.

"If you have a hundred landscape architects in the room and a hundred architects, half of them are going to tell you (the building) enhances it because they like an enclosure. The others are going to tell you it won't," he said.

Contact Barrett at 232-5833 or [email protected]

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