Mount Airy Downtown Inc. voted last week to support fundraising efforts to assist with construction of the downtown mini-park after the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners decided 4-0 to delay funding approval, after the projected costs exceeded $100,000.
Commissioner Steve Yokeley attend the MAD meeting on Tuesday morning, and answered questions posed by MAD board members after a mini-park presentation by City Engineer Mitch Williams.
Williams told the board that the park would run 74 feet along N. Main Street and 25 feet along Oak St. The presentation included design proposals for the park, along with a comparison of the different proposed designs with the costs involved.
The most expensive design includes a 16x20 gazebo with a turret that would measure five feet in diameter and stand around 25 feet tall. The turret is a nod to the history of downtown Mount Airy, since the park is in the same spot as the Blue Ridge Inn, built in 1830, and The Blue Ridge Hotel, which replaced the Blue Ridge Inn in 1892. That structure included a unique tower on the corner, in the same design as the turret on the proposed gazebo. The Blue Ridge Hotel stood in place on the corner of N. Main and Oak Streets until 1965.
Last November, the park proposal was put out to bid with four local contractors submitting proposals. Williams told the MAD board that if only $10,000 was spent, the city could simply install plain, concrete sidewalks in the area with “a couple of benches.” The minimum cost required for a mini-park would be around $25,000 to $30,000, which would include refacing walls with “some type of brick” and a few benches, which would be similar to Lowry Park, Williams said.
A design that costs $40,000 to $50,000 would include “stamped concrete walkways, walls along Main St. and around 25 feet of Oak Street refaced, as well as brick seating,” but no gazebo.
Williams told the board that the highest cost would be around $115,000, and would include stamped concrete walkways, walls along Main Street, 25 feet along Oak St. refaced, brick seating surfaces, and the brick gazebo with a turret, power outlets, and a granite paver floor. The turret addition to the gazebo would cost around $15,000.
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History Director Matthew Edwards, who was in attendance at the MAD meeting, told the board he would be willing to work with them for information to put on a plaque, detailing the history of the Blue Ridge Hotel that once stood in the spot.
Yokeley told the board that $70,000 for the park was approved already by the city, but it would only fund the mini-park, not the gazebo. He said there was “no way that more than $70,000 would be approved,” which is why the commissioner’s were asking the MAD board to assist with fundraising efforts.
“We will either do it without the gazebo, or we need to try to raise money for the gazebo…I think it’s a great plan and I have talked to [Downtown Coordinator] Lizzie [Morrison] about it, and we think we can do a fundraiser. We haven’t even tried yet, and we already have had $2,000 in pledges to get started…I’d like to see as much money raised as we can, because the more money we can come up with, the better we can do it. This is a very visible corner, and if we are going to do it, it needs to be done right.”
Since the city cannot conduct fundraisers, the efforts will fall onto the MAD board, Yokeley added.
Board member Amy Slate asked the board if it was a general consensus that the gazebo should be included, and added that in other areas, a gazebo almost “muffles the sound and hides the musicians.” Williams said that if the park did not include a gazebo, some sort of railing would have to be installed due to the drop from the level of the parking lot down to the sidewalk.
Williams added that public works is not “advocating any of this” only showing what is possible. He also said that “fountains were mentioned early on, but fountains are hard to maintain and people vandalize them.”
MAD President Ted Ashby said that $45,000 was a “good amount of money” and added that they were “struggling to raise $5,000 or $6,000 with the Fiddle Crawl.”
“We would need input from the city on what types of promotions we could run. Would we have naming rights? Would we be selling bricks? I don’t know how, in our budget, what type of marketing you want to do.”
Slate suggested they try to get the design for $70,000 and go with it, but Yokely chimed in and said that that price would be “just the park, with no type of gazebo or anything else.”
“I’ve had quite a bit more positive comments about having some type of structure, than not having anything at all,” Yokeley told the board. “There has been some discussion about the turret and not having that there, but as far as that is, the gazebo has been mostly positive.”
Williams added that the gazebo is designed around the turret on the corner: “If the turret goes away, you can play with the gazebo some, but if you play with that, it changes the bid prices, and it can get complicated.”
Downtown Coordinator Lizzie Morrison said that there is a need for a structure in the mini-park. “The DBA had a board meeting and we discussed that it would be great if there was an area where musicians could come and jam, kids could meet Santa Claus, artists could do plein air painting…I think it’s a great idea to have a structure. I don’t know if the turret is necessary, and if it knocks off $15,000 without the turret, we should go for it.”
Yokely told the boar they could put off the deadline until March 6, but no longer than that. “If you think we could raise the money and have a plan by March 6, we can put it off.”
Ashby made a motion for the MAD board to “Support the fundraising efforts to complete the project and work with the promotions committee to come up with a plan and see how much money we can raise.” The board approved the motion, and Yokeley chimed in, adding that the “plan had not been approved yet…it’s still in limbo; we need to see how much money we can raise first, before we decide what we can do.”
Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 or on Twitter @MountAiryJess.