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Landscaping at McKinney Center to take ‘less formal, woodland’ look

With their sights set on holding a grand opening celebration at the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School later this month, crews are busy putting the finishing touches on the interior of the building.
“We’re extremely proud of what has happened here,” said Town Administrator Bob Browning of the renovation efforts that have transformed the former school for African Americans from a rundown, vacant building to an up and coming arts center. “Almost 90 percent of the work has been done by an inmate crew from Carter County. They have done a fabulous job and I can’t tell you how much money they have saved the town. We’re very fortunate.”
Members of the Tree and Townscape Board met at the facility on Sept. 25 to discuss a landscaping plan for the outside of the facility.
“We’re at the point where the landscape plan is a really big deal,” Browning said.
Two representatives from Equinox, a landscape firm hired to come up with a planting plan for the site, presented two concepts.
The first, considered the “woodland” and “less formal” concept, features a 30-foot-by-60-foot oval lawn to serve as a place to hold events such as weddings, receptions and musical performances. A small pergola along a portion of the outer edge of the circle serves as a focal point.
Sculptures are scattered throughout the property to create a “relaxed feel and sense of mystery,” and an informal nature trail wraps throughout a portion of the property.
The second concept, dubbed the “more formalized garden” plan features a circular outdoor space, this time with a mix of hardscape area and green space. It also boasts a larger pergola than the first concept, making the overall appearance “a little more dramatic.”
“This would become the focal point,” said David Tuch, Equinox president. “It would be very special and eye catching.”
Where the first concept focuses on using shrubbery and natural greens, the second concept utilizes perennial flowers and bands of spring and summer flowering bulbs for effect.
Sculptures are maintained in formalized planting beds rather than scattered about the property, offering a “more structured” approach.
After hearing about both concepts, members of the Tree and Townscape Board opted for the less formal option.
“I don’t feel like the space is a formal garden,” said Breelyn Bomba, committee member.
Member Virginia Kennedy said she felt the more formal option was “not keeping with what the building was.”
The group unanimously voted to move ahead with the “woodland” concept, making a few suggestions for improvements and changes.
Meanwhile, committee member Jim Eldridge emphasized the need for more parking at the site.
“I think parking is our biggest problem,” he said. “We’ve just got about 20 parking places.”
Browning admitted it was a problem, but said the facility should be able to handle the day-to-day activities with the allotted space for parking.
“The biggest issue is when we do performances and there’s 200 people or something like that,” he said.
Ongoing work to create a walkway system that connects much of downtown Jonesborough with the area west, including the McKinney Center, will also alleviate some of the problem, Browning said.
“Once we get the walkway system put in, there’s going to be people walking here from downtown.”