Proposed renovation seeks approval

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

The developer of a proposed 145-unit mixed-use apartment complex went before a planning commission seeking a recommendation for conditional district rezoning on Monday. The recommendation allows for the request to be considered by the town council on Feb. 19.

The proposed development, known as the Rivers Walk Project, is proposed to be built on the corner of Poplar Grove Road and Water Street.

The Rivers Walk Project consists of five connected buildings for commercial and residential purposes. The ground floors will be used for commercial and retail purposes, while the upper levels will be used as apartments.

Jim Deal, the attorney for the developers, said the project will clean up a neglected section of downtown.

“It’s a renovation of a blighted area,” Deal said. “There are very old, dilapidated buildings that are boarded up right now. There’s also soil contamination from a former oil company that was located there that’ll be cleaned up.”

The project should be a huge boost for downtown businesses, said Bill Bailey, the head of Boone Planning and Inspections.

“There will be more people living downtown,” Bailey said. “Those people will be patronizing the businesses a lot more.”

However, Bailey said he thinks the economic benefits are only a portion of the good the Rivers Walk Project can do.

“There are also security benefits to be had,” Bailey explained. “If you have people living downtown, there will be that ‘after-hours security’ feeling, where people will be paying attention, so that if there’s a scream in the middle of the night, someone will hear it and call the police.”

The Rivers Walk Project has faced numerous obstacles since being proposed in September 2014.

The developer is looking to rezone the adjacent area of Rivers Park. Rivers Park is currently zoned as an R-1 district, which designates it as an area for single-family residences. However, there are no single-family residences in the area. The reason it’s an R-1 zone is because the land, which was deeded to the Town of Boone by the Rivers-Coffey family, was originally a residential area.

“The town is in the process of determining how it should appropriately be zoned, because it clearly should not be zoned R-1,” Deal said.

The property also lies on a floodway, or an area with a high danger of flooding. This forced the developers to redesign the layout of the facility.

The initial plan originally had all the parking underground, which increased the risk of flooding even more. The developers changed the architectural design to put the parking garage on the higher end of the property.

Bailey said construction is expected to be completed by the fall of 2016.

STORY: Thomas Culkin, News Reporter