On the Green: Village Moves Forward with Changes
When Pinehurst council member and architect Mark Parson visualizes the completed renovations to the Village Green in downtown Pinehurst, he sees a space beneficial to current and future residents.
"I can visualize a couple holding hands, sitting on a bench in the middle of the green, and that is when they decide they are coming to live in Pinehurst," Parson said. "Those conversations don't happen in a parking lot."
Parson, who has been an advocate for open space on the green for years, said he knows that when completed, the changes to the Village Green and the downtown parking lot will have a positive impact on the village.
"I didn't vote for taking down trees or adding bricks," he said. "I voted for how this is going to positively affect the quality of life of residents in the village."
Amanda Jacoby, a Pinehurst resident and interior designer, agrees. And more importantly, so does her 8-year-old daughter.
"She is so excited," Jacoby said. "She asked me the other day, 'Mommy, can I do cartwheels in the grass?"
About the size of 10 football fields, the area known as the Village Green could be the most prominent piece of property in Pinehurst.
The Village Green comprises about 13 acres. On one end sits The Village Chapel, which occupies 4.5 acres. On the other end sits the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives, which takes up another acre. That leaves 7.3 acres of village-owned unoccupied space and home to approximately 1,000 trees.
The improvements, expected to be completed in April, include changes to the sand parking lot that will shift the parking lot and create a larger lawn open space. The parking lot will be paved with a new surface that is expected to be more user-friendly.
The changes to the green will open up an area around Tufts Rock, the central point of the village. It is hoped that the more open green will be a focal point to draw people, particularly younger families, downtown.
"It's a park," said Pat Corso, president of the Given Memorial Library board. "Imagine park benches, people strolling through there. It is a place to go in the center of the village."
The open green would complement a planned expansion of the library and archives, Corso said.
Work on the parking lot and the green finally got under way last week after nearly seven months of delays that began last June when the Historic Preservation Commission ruled the changes were inappropriate. The commission cited the overall size of the project and the removal of trees.
That decision spurred an appeal that the village eventually won, clearing the way for the work going on now.
"I don't think people understand how much it's going to change the dynamic in the village," Parson said. "It is going to speak for itself."
But such activity in a village cautious of change does not come without some controversy and crossed swords.
The green is part of the Pinehurst Historic District, which was designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in 1996. That designation is held dearly by some in the village, and they worry that any significant alterations could jeopardize the village's historic status.
The National Park Service, which oversees the landmarks, placed the village's landmark status on a "watch list" several years ago after learning of the construction of the Carolina Vista roundabout that routes traffic to the Carolina Hotel, N.C. 5 and the Pinehurst Country Club.
Representatives from the Parks Service have cautioned the village that any changes made to the green could risk the landmark status.
Opponents of the changes argued that alterations to the area could cause the village to lose its historic status, which would adversely affect tourism as well as the village's prestigious reputation.
The Park Service wanted the village to create a cultural landscape report, a detailed documentation of the features of the area: architecture, history, landscape, topography, vegetation, design and numerous other factors that help determine the significance of a structure or area.
The village opted against the report, saying it would be too costly, and would not guarantee the preservation of the landmark status. They chose instead to hire a consultant to review the proposed improvements projects.
And while the current council has moved steadily forward with the planned improvements, it has made some effort to try to repair relations with the National Park Service.
Last September, the council hired John Milner Associates, a historic preservation consulting firm in Charlottesville, Va., to review and offer input on proposed projects.
For instance, representatives from Milner suggested changes in landscaping and plants pertaining to landscaping for the projects.
So far, says Village Manager Andy Wilkison, comments regarding the work under way have been minimal.
The village's improvements are not the only changes slated for the green.
The Village Chapel has talked for a few years about expanding and adding an education building on land it owns. That project was the subject of a lawsuit, which was decided in the church's favor just last week by a state appeals court.
The expansion, however, has long since been tabled as the chapel's congregation determines whether to proceed.
Besides the chapel work, the Given Library and Tufts Archives is just starting a fundraising campaign to fund its expansion plans. Work is expected to begin after the summer of 2014.
The Park Service has offered to work with the village on all these projects to make them congruent with the historic designation. But Park Service officials also say they're not afraid to pull a designation if necessary.
If the Park Service deems the changes have watered down the village's historic status, it could initiate a long process to consider revoking the designation.
Not in Danger
Village staff and the council members have said they don't believe the status is in danger. That's because it's not the village's architecture or any one building that makes it historic. Rather, it's Pinehurst's place in the history of American golf that gives the village its fame.
Pat Corso is one of the few remaining individuals in town who worked on getting the historic landmark designation back in the 1990s and has said the goal of obtaining the status was to celebrate the village's centennial. At the time, Corso worked for Pinehurst Resort.
On May 8, 1996, the National Park Service Advisory Board recommended designation of the Pinehurst Historic District as a National Historic Landmark. It was one of 25 properties that received the NHL designation. On a memorandum from the NPS regarding the 25 properties, Pinehurst Historic District is listed in the History of Recreation category.
The statement of significance for the Pinehurst Historic District as pertaining to the NHL reads as follows: The Pinehurst Historic District, a planned recreational resort community, comprises a network of curvilinear roads embracing the Village Green; late Victorian, Colonial revival and bungalow-style hotels, cottages, stores, and churches; golf courses, tennis courts, bowling greens, and croquet courts; and horse stables and a race track. From its founding in 1895, the captains of American commerce, finance and industry, their families and friends sought recreational pleasures at Pinehurst, which become the model for a subsequent generation of like resorts. Its creation and integrity today as a remarkably intact recreational resort reflects the genius of the Tufts family of Boston, the designers, and Donald James Ross, who designed and refined the resort's golf courses.
"It was awarded because it was an early, or one of the first, American resort destinations, and because of the famous people who worked here," Wilkison said after he had a chance to review the documentation. "It wasn't for the architecture or for the landscape."
Parson said throughout the process of getting the Village Green improvements done, he has never felt it threatened Pinehurst's status.
"I've never looked at it that way," he said. "When it's finished, it is going to look and feel like it has always been there."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tem brey@ thepilot.com.
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