The City of Asheville and Buncombe County partnered with McAdams Company (led by Mitchell Silver) to document the community’s vision for a more equitable, accessible and inclusive Pack Square Plaza, which sits in the heart of downtown Asheville and serves as a social and economic hub for the region.
Next steps for Pack Square Plaza include turning the Vision Document into a more detailed design concept.
CITY COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING HELD ON THURSDAY, JUNE 29, 2023
The Pack Square Plaza Visioning Advisory Committee met in-person on Thursday, June 29, 2023 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the 4th Floor Training Room of the Municipal Building (100 Court Plaza). The Committee previewed recommendations from the plan. Committe member roster is available here.
CITY OF ASHEVILLE AWARDED $3,000,000 FROM THE MELLON FOUNDATION’S MONUMENTS PROJECT TO SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY’S VISION FOR PACK SQUARE AND THE BLOCK
See the staff report submitted in April to request City Council’s authorization for staff to apply for the grant
COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING HELD FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2023
The Pack Square Plaza Visioning Community Advisory Committee met in-person on Friday, February 17 from 2 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. at City Hall (70 Court Plaza) in the 6th Floor Training Room. The meeting agenda is here. The meeting was open to the public and recorded.
The presentation from the meeting which provides a recap of the themes from public engagement is available here.
DESIGN WORKSHOP HELD FRIDAY JANUARY 13, 2023,
Sixty community members came out and put pencil and marker to paper (trace paper that is!) and started testing design solutions based in community input heard so far. About half of the group were landscape architects, architects, planners and urban designers, and the other half were members of the Community Advisory Committee, City Boards and Commissions, or other civically engaged followers of the project.
The session was guided by the “What We Heard” document available here and concentrated on developing solutions to the “Five Focus Areas”, below.
Five focus areas:
- Issues/ideas associated with the repurposing of the former Vance Monument area
- How equity and inclusion can be advanced at Pack Square Plaza, now and in the future
- Guidance on a future design/design process for capital improvements to Pack Square, including budgetary considerations
- Recommendations on a public private partnership to support future improvements to the area (including operations and management)
- Ideas to better connect – both physically and mentally- Pack Square to The Block
Summary of Community Engagement Opportunities
*Interviews with adjacent property owners and selected stakeholders occurred in fall 2022 and continued throughout the project timeline.
*A series of in-person public engagement events were held December 1, 2 and 3, 2022
A series of focus groups and engagement events gave the public a variety of opportunities to shape the future of Pack Square Plaza. The schedule is available here.
*Two online meetings were held on December 12 and December 14 for those that could not attend an in-person session.
*A series of in-person public engagement events to discuss the draft plan were held July 28-29, 2023
- Creating a Richer History about the Heart of our Downtown
- Reshaping Pack Square Plaza and Connecting The Block through Design
- The Vision for a More Inclusive Pack Square Plaza
*Engagement Hub (on-going)
The Pack Square Plaza Visioning project kicked off on Friday September 16, 2022. The City and County opened an online engagement hub that allows for 24-7 community input. The final survey for public comment on the draft plan closed on September 8, 2023. General public comments were taken until August 21, 2023.
*Community Advisory Committee (on-going)
A Community Advisory Committee was formed as a sub-committee of the Downtown Commission and will provide input at key points. More information is available on the Downtown Commission page.
*Art in the Heart-Inspired Community Conversations
Local artists and creatives were selected to use their work to cultivate and facilitate critical conversations around the past, present, and future of Pack Square Plaza. Temporary installations in and around Pack Square launched in early September 2022 and continued through early 2023. Projects included performance, interactive experiences, sculpture, mixed media, and other art forms. The community was asked to respond to these works through the online engagement hub.
This project is a continuation of work launched by the signing of a joint resolution of the County Commission and City Council to create the Vance Monument Task Force in the summer of 2020. The Task Force was assembled as one response to community input during the protests against racial injustice that came after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The monument was built in 1897-98 to honor former North Carolina governor, confederate and enslaver Zebulon Vance, and was owned by the City and part of its Public Art and Memorials collection.The findings and recommendation of the Vance Monument Task Force led to the signing of a City Council resolution in March 2021 to remove the monument, and to the dedication of funds to a planning process for the future of the site.
Removal of the monument began in spring 2021 and was substantially completed, but was put on on-hold June 2021 – April 2022 pending a North Carolina Appeals Court decision.
This project is also driven by an emerging sense in the community that it is time to create a new narrative around the past, present and future of Pack Square Plaza. This idea goes hand-in-hand with considering how the design and programming of the space can better reflect that narrative and our current values as a community. In addition to the removal of the Vance Monument as a motivation to reconsider the future of Pack Square, several other issues have been identified that suggest there is a strong opportunity to consider improvements to the design and programming of the space.
They include, but are not limited to:
- ADA access needs for the raised lawn on the northeast end of the square
- Insufficient sidewalk width on the west side of the museum
- Opportunity to improve connection and wayfinding to The Block, the historic African American district just south of the square
- Consideration to remove cars from North Pack Square to create more space for people
- Better reflecting the BIPOC experience in Asheville through public art, memorials, programming and design
- Resolving use conflicts and design issues with the west side of Biltmore Avenue
- Create a sense of community that extends beyond its attraction for tourism
- Lifts up its designation as a free speech zone and place for gathering
The initial stages of this project was supported by work from Friends of Buncombe County Special Collections, the Morehead-Cain Scholar Program, and Asheville’s Public Art and Cultural Commission. The Biltmore Company helped with the Art in the Heart program by working directly with one of the artists to secure natural building materials from the Biltmore Estate.
The Pack Square Plaza Project team continues to encourage partnerships with organizations that can improve the planning process and build momentum around the future recommendations from the Vision Document. If your organization is interested in working with or on this project, contact Steph Dahl at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 28, 2022 – The City’s Public Art and Cultural Commission (PACC) held an Annual Retreat that focused on the Pack Square Plaza Visioning process and a temporary public art program to be launched. The meeting agenda is here and a recording of the meeting is here.
February 17, 2022 – PACC recapped discussions about the Pack Square Plaza Visioning process as well as planning for an upcoming inventory of existing public art and memorials in Pack Square. A link to the recording of the discussion is here.
PACC also received an update from staff on a temporary public art program being developed in coordination with the upcoming Visioning process. A recording of this update is available here.
March 17, 2022 – PACC completed an inventory and assessment of all public art, memorials and objects of memory in the Pack Square Area. See the Public Art & Cultural Commission page for more information.
March – April 2022 – Project Manager proposals being reviewed.
April 5, 2022 – North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a decision to dismiss claims against the City and allowing removal of the monument to proceed. More information is here. However, that decision has since been appealed.
May 26, 2022 – “Art in the Heart” temporary public art program launches. More information is here.
June 14, 2022 – Asheville City Council supports the execution of a contract with McAdams Company for community engagement, planning and urban design services. More information is here.
August, 2022– Project Planning including site analysis begins
September, October, November 2022– community listening period kicks of a 6-9 month long process to develop a Vision Document.
October 31, 2022 – Pack Square Visioning Community Advisory Committee Meeting
November 14, 2022 – Public engagement opportunities announced. More information is here.
December 1, 2 and 3, 2022 – In-person engagement events. View the full schedule here.
December 12 and 14, 2022 – Online Public Meetings via Zoom. Links in Community Engagement Opportunities section above.
January 13, 2023 – Public Design Workshop. View more information here.
February 17, 2023 – Community Advisory Committee meeting. View more information here.
July 21, 2023 – Draft Vision Document Released to the Public for Comment on the City’s public engagement hub.
July 28 and 29, 2023 – Community Advisory Committee and Public Meetings to Review Plan
July 21 – August 21, 2023 – Online feedback accepted via City’s public engagement hub.
August 11, 2023 – Downtown Commission public meeting with Community Advisory Committee (final advice to PED and Council)
August 14, 2023 – City Council Planning and Economic Development Committee (presentation by staff)
September 12, 2023 – Presentation for adoption by City Council* (by Mitchell Silver, supported by staff)
September 26, 2023 – Vision Document adopted by City Council
*The Buncombe County Commission will hear an update on the plan before City Council review. Any comments from the Commission, who are partners in this project, will be shared in staff’s report to the City Council.
- RFP for Project Manager (January 18, 2022)
- Joint Resolution by Asheville City Council & Buncombe County Commission to appoint a Vance Monument Task Force (VMTF)
- Vance Monument Task Force webpage (including all engagement & meeting materials)
- Final Report and Recommendation of VMTF
- Staff Report to City Council regarding the removal of the Vance Monument (March 23, 2021)
- Background on the creation of Pack Square from the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA)
- Background on Zebulon Vance/the Vance Monument namesake, from University of North Carolina’s Commemorative Landscapes Project
Urban Design & Place Strategies Manager
Planning & Urban Design Department