Wellness District to expand College of Health Sciences

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

In conjunction with Appalachian State University, the town of Boone has proposed a plan to turn part of the town into a Wellness District, which would improve quality of the area and add two facilities to the College of Health Sciences.

The proposed district would consist of all the land between the middle fork of the South Fork New River and U.S. Highway 321 to the north and south as well as the Watauga Medical Center and Winkler Creek to the east and west. The total area is roughly 101 acres.

There is currently no timeframe for when construction on the district will begin. However, Carole Acquesta, director of Design and Construction at Appalachian, said construction could begin by late 2015 if the project gets fully funded. It is expected to take roughly two years to complete.

According to the proposal, the plan’s intention is to create a more urban, pedestrian-friendly environment with a concentration on creating academic, wellness, residential, support and commercial buildings.

To make the land more pedestrian-friendly, Bill Bailey, the director of Boone Planning and Inspections department, said renovations such as clearly delineated bicycle lanes and crosswalks of stamped asphalt and concrete, rather than standard asphalt and larger sidewalks, will be implemented.

“We want to create an atmosphere where people actually want to walk from place to place,” Bailey said.

A key component of the plan is the addition of two buildings that will be a part of Appalachian’s College of Health Sciences, including a proposed office building.

“You’ll see doctors’ offices in substandard buildings move into this nice new hi-tech building,” Bailey said.

When the doctors move into the office building, Bailey said, the vacant lots created will become targets for developers looking to purchase land, which would greatly benefit the town.

The other building will be an academic building of classrooms and labs. The complex would consolidate all of the departments within the College of Health Sciences into a single building.

Acquesta said putting all the departments together could be beneficial to both the students and faculty.

“I believe it helps the students to access the facilities and the faculty as well more easily facilitate their learning,” Acquesta said. “It would also be close to the hospital, which would provide opportunities for collaboration.”

The Wellness District would also be an attractive incentive to developers who are considering to build on the land.

“We want developers to look at this place and say, ‘I know my property values will stay stable or increase,’ because they know in advance since it’s laid out in the plan,” Bailey said.

Bailey predicts many of the buildings in the area would have to be demolished and rebuilt rather than renovated.

“Many of the buildings are so old that you’ll have to remove them,” Bailey said. “They no longer function [and] they’re not efficient or sustainable.”

Story: Tommy Culkin, News Reporter