Ramping it up

Our first funder is behind us. We’ve raised enough money to press forward with the information campaign.

A great designer, Todd Smith, is working out our first “literature.”

Thanks to all who donated. We’re off to a great start! Just imagine what we can do in Asheville’s best downtown park!

puppet show park

On the edge of brilliance

by Jay Fields (Board member)

I feel honored to have been one of seventeen Asheville folks who worked through a ten-month review of the city’s Haywood/Page public space, a much-maligned and jumbled up area sliced through with too many streets and odd intersections in front of St. Lawrence Basilica and the civic center. The task of this advisory committee came down to recommending, based on a gargantuan amount of citizen input, exactly what most people wanted and envisioned as occurring in this undeveloped area, roughly 2.5 acres that have defied organization into anything worthwhile for more than a decade.

To put it another way, the idea was to “tee up” for qualified (and hopefully brilliant) designers, yet to be named, how most people felt about the space, plus notes on topography, pedestrian and traffic flow and other phenomena confronting a sensitive design process. Moreover, the team was asked to develop a core vision for how the area will work and what it could eventually mean as an inspirational destination for residents and visitors.

A concern that I have personally had throughout the process is that whatever “view” congeals, it should provide an un-muddled interpretation for the design team, the exact reverse of trying to be “everything for everybody.” In other words, the primary proposed uses of the space should be clear as a bell, not pulled down with innumerable options, as in “well, we could do this” or “we could do that.”

On that basis, and taking into account the overwhelming majority of citizen responses calling for an open (park-like or green) space with multiple open space uses, I think it was clear to everyone on the team that “passive/active” open space has ruled the roost of everyone’s thinking from the very start.

Any trouble in the hen house, so to speak, for any and all parties involved seems to have arisen over the words “education,” “housing” and “retail” as small bubbles that wound up affixed to the idea of an active open area.

For what it’s worth, and strictly speaking as an individual, I believe these words are not only poorly chosen, but incredibly distractive to a central concept for the space.

I saw them, all along, as peripheral and down-the-line tangential to building a fabulous open space, conceivably with gardens, paths, fountains, trees, views and public art.

So, I truly believe it’s time to put the accent on the right syllable, as my mom used to say.

And the accent should be on breathtaking, inspirational beauty, on community, on relaxation and wonder. Education may be an ad hoc book club meeting in the open space under a tree, housing in an extremely complementary way could develop well down the line beyond the edge of the park and retail, drawn to the beauty of the space (but not within it), would naturally provide opportunities and fill some needs without defacing the inherent beauty of a gorgeous space.

So I’m simply asking that we all raise our expectations. At one point in time Central Park was a dream, as was Bryant Park and the High Line, all in Manhattan. These great spaces (linear in the case of the High Line) were not built out of a muddled view or any effort to compromise the uplifting value of a breathtaking space. They were built with the notion do it right, do it for the long term, and all the rest will come, not the least of “all the rest” meaning an enduring love for an intricately thought-through space turned into something of sure merit by masters with a clear vision.

The worst thing we could do, especially after all this consideration, is to lower the sights of what this space could be and especially try to make it a space that includes something of everything. That is not how great spaces work.

I was asked to help write a “sense of place” vision statement as part of the report for Tuesday’s council presentation. One of my favorite lines reads:

“Whenever I walk into this space, changeable and fluid with the seasons, it’s like a curtain rising on one of the city’s most consequential and beautiful urban spaces.”

Let’s not stop until that dream comes true.

Our First Funder! Free Tickets!

We’ve finally received full approval from the IRS on our 501(c)3 application. (It’s only taken a year.)

Thanks to Charlotte Street Computers here in Asheville we are able to offer free tickets to the Asheville Community Theater presentation of “The Groundling“—a play by Marc Palmieri, directed by Betsy Puckett. At this time, any donation in any amount will get you a pair of tickets to the show on Thursday, August 23. (As tickets fly out the door we may raise the bar, so get yours early!) (The link above will take you to a review of the Broadway presentation of this play.)

Click here to donate

What will we do with your donation?

The People’s Park Foundation is dedicated to creation of a public park in the vacant land between the Asheville Civic Center, the Basilica of St. Lawrence and the Grove Arcade.

In the near term we will be creating some fun events in the space, but the broad goal is to raise funds for redevelopment and to set aside 20 percent of donations for long term maintenance of the space. There are no paid employees of PPF, and all money raised will be directed to this project.

We are incorporated as a nonprofit in the State of North Carolina and registered with the IRS.

Planning for spring 2018

We’re beginning to put together ideas for activities this spring. Let us know what you’d like to do or see in our future park. Food trucks are operating now, and Elders & Sage has created a wonderful community garden on the Page St. side of the property.

Use the contact link to send in your ideas.

Other “people’s parks” have yoga, tai chi, knitting in public, films, musical events, farmer’s markets, reading to children, hop scotch competitions and more. Be creative! Toss in your two cents!

Our Board

When we founded PPF in June 2017 we drew board members with broad experience in nonprofit work and community engagement.

John Russell, long time Director of the Montford Park Players and a member of the NC Public Art Board was happy to step in.
Ellie Richard, a Child Education Consultant and leading light of Asheville’s “People Who Tell the Truth” exhibition joined as well.
Elaine Lite, Founder and Chair of Mountain Voices Alliance—principal sponsors of Mountain Moral Monday and other actions here—came on board.
Jay Fields, a member of the Haywood Street Visioning Task Force and a past member of various City boards and commissions, was ready to bring his perspective.
Ron Ogle, an artist recognized for masterful portraits and landscapes and a resident of the Battery Park Apartments which look out over the future park property, was willing to bring his aesthetic eye to the project.
Cecil Bothwell, a two term City Council member who has worked for more than a dozen years to create a park on this site, is Secretary to the Board.