When first proposed last fall, plans for a mini-park at the corner of North Main and West Oak streets were viewed as a way to enhance the downtown area at a minimal expense.
However, the price tag for the mini-park could now exceed $105,000, according to a presentation in which those plans were updated.
The mini-park is envisioned at a site near the former Workforce Carolina building that now houses a toy store, where part of a parking lot with entrances from North Main and West Oak streets now exists.
Its development is resulting from a property transfer approved in October between the city government and an entity known as Main Street Granite, a limited-liability company whose principals include Charles Vaughn.
The mini-park plans emerged in connection with a renovation of the former Workforce Carolina building to provide a new entrance where a drive-in window was once located. The property transfer included the city agreeing to extend a new public sidewalk from an existing one on North Main Street to the new building entrance.
In exchange for the sidewalk being constructed at the municipality’s expense, Main Street Granite offered Mount Airy a parcel amounting to about 1,800 square-feet for the mini-park. The site in question is adjacent to the public sidewalk at the North Main-West Oak corner.
Options Vary Widely
Now almost five months later, two options have been presented for the mini-park to proceed, with widely varying price tags. A firm known as Earth Graphics prepared designs and artist renderings that were presented to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
The costlier option, at $105,000, features a liberal use of granite, including for a retaining wall that would dominate the site. That plan, in which the stone alone would cost $50,000 from North Carolina Granite Corp., also would include elements such as a fountain.
Meanwhile, the cheaper option at $10,000 would stress the use of concrete rather than granite and be undertaken by the city government’s in-house sidewalk crew. Both plans include landscaping and benches.
The $105,000 price tag seemed to catch some commissioners off-guard during the recent presentation.
“How did this come about?” Commissioner Steve Yokeley asked. “I just thought we had an agreement that they (Main Street Granite) would deed us the property and we could do what we wanted with it.”
City Public Services Director Jeff Boyles indicated that the company has a high expectation for the mini-park. “Obviously, they’re pushing for something pretty nice,” Boyles said.
In response to a question from Commissioner Shirley Brinkley, City Attorney Hugh Campbell said that the city’s action so far hasn’t committed it to any particular design. Officials have only decided to move forward with the project, the attorney added.
“I’d like to see some discussion with the developer,” Yokeley said when board members discussed how they should proceed at this point. “I don’t like surprises like this.”
The board’s Dean Brown also prefers multiple options to consider, “something cheaper than that high price,” he said of the one costing $105,000. “Why have a palace?”
However, there was sentiment from others on the board that an elaborate mini-park should result.
Commissioner Jon Cawley said the city government doesn’t get many opportunities to spearhead such a project that will be seen by a lot of people, as this one in the central business district would.
Cawley believes the municipality should undertake improvements that benefit citizens, which he said is the case with the upper-scale mini-park. “I didn’t expect it to be that nice until I saw that drawing,” he said of the schematic design for the $105,000 option.
Earth Graphics prepared drawings at a cost of a couple hundred dollars or so, which was paid for with city dollars.
Commissioner Scott Graham said he also favors the more-expensive plan.
“I think it is a great opportunity to do something significant,” Graham said, adding that the project would go hand in hand with other improvements in the downtown area. He described the four-to-five-block section that is involved as “Mount Airy’s showplace.”
Compared to other cities, downtown Mount Airy’s appearance could stand some improvement, according to Graham.
“I think we’re pretty ugly downtown, in some respects.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.