|Proposed "Marketplace" development at King & Water streets|
But it's also a large parking deck wrapped (and disguised) as an apartment building.
Boone needs downtown parking, and this large building will offer 333 parking places. So there's that. It will be commercial, for-profit parking, but what would we expect when the town of Boone cannot build its own parking deck?
The developers have limited the apartments to 100 1-bedroom, 31 2-bedroom, and six 3-bedroom units. No 4-bedroom units, which is what most new student housing in Boone has offered for lease. So there's that too. The housing concept would seem to appeal more to older, quieter students. However, every apartment has an open balcony, which might give neighbors up the hill pause in contemplating a summer "party night" at The Marketplace.
That the developers are open about marketing to Appalachian State University undergraduates is a likely downside for downtown Boone, as is the out-of-all-proportion size of this proposed development. Is it to be a high-rise dormitory smack in the middle of town? Or a genuine shopping destination with restaurants and shops on the ground floor with convenient parking?
This development, like "Rivers Walk" two blocks away at the corner of Water and Poplar Grove Rd., is on a whole new permitting track, a "planned development," established by the Boone Town Council. The process puts much more power in the hands of the developers and cuts out the Board of Adjustment altogether, which means it cuts out the public's ability to present substantial, material, and relevant evidence in opposition.
The "community meeting" held Tuesday evening, when the developers laid out their plans and heard comments from the public, is now mandated for the planned development process, but the developers are not obliged to follow any of the objections or suggestions they heard. The final up-or-down approval for a planned development falls to the Town Council, which has been extremely compliant recently and enamored of high-rise, rent-by-the-bedroom developments. (We're waiting to see how the Council votes on "Rivers Walk" on March 21.)
Members of the community had numerous criticisms and suggestions on Tuesday night. Among the most substantive were those offered by Eric Plaag, chair of the Boone Historic Preservation Commission, who worried that the building as pictured was simply an out-of-character massive intrusion and would dwarf the historic Watauga Democrat building next door and the Wilcox Emporium on the back street. (Unfortunately, Plaag's comments were left out of the High Country Press coverage but was touched on by the Watauga Democrat.)
So much now depends on if and how the developers ask their architect to redesign the exterior to lessen the impression that a large toad has moved onto a very small lily pad.
The title above alludes to something attorney Jim Deal, who represents the developers, said at the beginning of the community meeting. Mr. Deal asked, rhetorically, if Boone has a definable "character," indicating, I thought, that he very much doubted that it did and was therefore not at all concerned that The Marketplace might be out of keeping with it.