Work Begins on Parking Lot, Village Green Project
Work is under way on a project to enhance the parking in downtown Pinehurst and open up the Village Green.
Crews began removing trees and doing other work last week on the project, which includes the downtown parking lot and part of the Village Green. Provided there are no delays, the project is expected to be completed in April.
Village Manager Andy Wilkison and several council members say they have received very little feedback so far on the once-controversial project.
"To this point, I have heard nothing negative," Wilkison said.
Council member Mark Parson said he has received only positive feedback in the form of a few text messages and phone calls.
The parking lot is expected to remain partially open as crews work, Wilkison said. To accommodate for lost spaces while crews work, Wilkison said the village has leased spaces behind the Maples Building, which is across from the old post office, and near the Pine Crest Inn.
"We hope people will keep coming downtown," Wilkison said.
The plan for the parking lot and the Village Green is to create an open area at the top of the parking lot nearest Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives, and then extending the far end of the lot away from the library. It is expected to result in 16 more spaces. An additional 20 spaces could also be created in the right of way along Village Green West.
The project was delayed for several months when the village's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) voted against issuing a certificate of appropriateness for the project, which was proposed by the village. The village appealed to the Board of Adjustment and it ruled in the village's favor, ordering the HPC to issue the certificate of appropriateness.
In the past, the project to improve the downtown parking lot generated much interest and, at times, heated debate by residents. Now that work has begun, Councilman Doug Lapins, who voted against the project, feels that the project "doesn't appear to be a big deal."
"I think people are ready to move forward," he said.
Two weeks ago, the village announced a plan to build a two-tier parking structure in the village center. The structure would be located behind The Holly Inn on Dogwood Road on an already existing parking lot.
The structure, which would be called Carriage House, would feature two levels, one below-grade lot accessible off Orange Road and the other accessible off Dogwood Road. The facility would add another 68 public parking spaces. The structure would also house public restrooms in a separate building that could also include space for a possible visitor's center or other use.
The property for the proposed parking deck is owned by Pinehurst LLC, which has signed a letter of intent to provide the land for the project. The deck would be funded and managed by the village. The facility would be used by the public and by guests of The Holly Inn.
"We are trying to be as helpful as we can be," said Kerry Andrews, a spokesperson for Pinehurst Resort. "We hope this will encourage people to come downtown, enjoy the restaurants, shopping and the overall atmosphere."
The parking deck is estimated to cost $2.7 million, and work is projected to begin in the second half of 2014.
Many have said that adequate parking is key to bringing people downtown. The first stage of that is the improvements to the downtown lot.
The downtown lot's surface will be an asphalt-like surface similar to the parking lot at the Fair Barn. The surface will be a lighter aggregate that is similar in color to the lot's current sand surface.
The Village Council voted 3-2 in January to approve a major site plan for the Village Green and parking improvement project. Lapins and John Strickland voted against approval. The council awarded the contract for the work to D.S. Simmons Inc., of Goldsboro. The winning bid was for $776,799.17, which also includes work for downtown streetscaping.
Strickland also voted against issuing the construction contract.
Proponents of the project say the parking lot will open up the Village Green and allow it to be a gathering place downtown. They also say the new surface will be less messy than the current sand surface, leading to more people opting to park in the lot.
Opponents have argued that the changes will adversely affect Pinehurst's Historic Landmark status and its relationship with the National Park Service, which oversees the status.
Some residents have questioned the need for the extra parking since there are several vacant buildings, such as the old post office and the Red Door Cafe, and because business is typically slower in the winter.
The additional spaces brought about by the improvements to the downtown parking lot and the addition of the parking deck will give the village 520 spaces, which is 100 fewer than the recommended industry standard, village officials have said.
Lapins said he hopes the parking improvements, once completed, will dispel the negative perceptions of parking in the village.
"I think people will have a sense that we have made provisions for parking," Lapins said. "That parking shouldn't be a limiting factor for business, their employees or for the people who are going downtown to shop in the stores or eat in the restaurants."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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