'Green' parking lot for library?
High Point Enterprise (NC), 2014-02-10
Feb. 10--HIGH POINT -- Creation of a public gathering space in the heart of the city -- that's the goal that the Ignite High Point master plan lays out for the area outside the High Point Neal F. Austin Public Library.
Miami architectural firm Duany Plater-Zyberk, which developed the plan, recommended that the city make development of a "library plaza" a top priority.
High Point architect Peter Freeman, working with a group of interested residents, has come up with a couple of options, the basics of which the City Council heard about last week.
The idea is to "green up" the asphalt and concrete of the library's parking lot by adding landscaping, farmers market shelters and other features -- without sacrificing parking spaces.
"The library is one of the most highly utilized buildings in the city. It's a very important, well-used civic building," said Freeman. "They need their parking. When you start taking any parking places away, it tears people up, and it should."
Cost figures and plans for both options should be available within 30 days, city staff advised the council Thursday.
Officials said one of the options would take away 19 of the library's 178 parking spots -- a prospect that library supporters oppose.
The other option would require the acquisition of two parcels of land next to the library parking lot -- 816 and 820 N. Elm St. One site is a vacant building that used to house a law firm and the other is occupied by three businesses.
Freeman said a sculpture garden within this space is one idea that's been discussed.
It could tie in with the pedestrian path through the adjacent roundabout, which could promote walkability between the library and nearby neighborhoods, he said.
The main public gathering space envisioned in both options would be adjacent to the library's entrance. The site could accommodate library programming, such as book fairs and outdoor reading or music events, as well as farmers markets. It would also make the area in front of the library more pedestrian-friendly, which is a major goal of many of the Duany plan's recommendations.
Freeman's designs also incorporate "grove trees" throughout the parking lot, but not in a manner that would impact current parking spaces, he said.
Council members said they want to see the results of an upcoming study on the No. 1 priority of the Duany plan -- a "road diet" for a portion of N. Main Street -- before committing to the library project.
"My constituents do use the library, but I don't know how much that's going to change with making the library more green," said Councilman Jeff Golden. "I'm not positive at this point that's the best investment. I am a supporter of this whole Ignite High Point movement, but I just think we need to take small steps and be sure of what we're doing. I think the library is something that might need to be on hold until we get this study back, and some other things."
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