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Meeting addresses improvements to create better downtown streetscape

Pedestrian safety and the unsightliness of the Exxon station at the corner of Boone and Main streets were concerns brought up during the first public meeting for citizen input into a streetscape plan for downtown Jonesborough.
Approximately 20 residents attended the April 7 meeting at the Jonesborough Visitors Center.
During the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the Jonesborough Tree and Townscape Board asked Equinox Environmental Consultation and Design out of Asheville, N.C., to provide a cost estimate on development of a comprehensive downtown landscape plan.
The board expressed several reasons for wanting to develop a plan, including the fact that there has been no long-range landscape planning downtown since the early 1980s.
Two studies commissioned by the Town — the Ralph Appelbaum Study and Destination Development Plan — also recommended a comprehensive landscape plan.
The Tree and Townscape Board discussed benches, recycling containers, and half-barrel planters in regard to improvements.
Some merchants have talked about flower boxes on windows downtown, but nothing has been determined.
Equinox vice president and landscape architect David Tuch came up with a planning/design proposal estimated at $35,000, but submitted a revised proposal that trimmed the cost to less than $24,000.
The revised proposal was approved for recommendation by the Tree and Townscape Board and the Historic Zoning Commission.
Members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, during their January meeting, approved the Downtown Landscape Agreement with Equinox with funding coming from the $12,000 included in the current fiscal year’s budget for landscape planning and $11,937 from the unappropriated line item in the General Fund, on the condition that the BMA can put the project on hold at any point it deems necessary.
Equinox representatives have spent time walking through Jonesborough to identify opportunities as part of their assessment. The project area is from Second Avenue to Boone Street.
Opportunities to build on, according to Tuch, are a rich town history; storytelling and the International Storytelling Center; a variety of retail; a center square with a Courthouse; and the existing streetscape.
Opportunities identified by Equinox for improvement include infrastructure upgrades; obstacles and clutter; sidewalk infringement; unifying elements; use of space; landscape; and signage.
A PowerPoint presentation included photos of downtown Jonesborough and its businesses. Tuch said the purpose was not to criticize, but rather, to help clarify opportunities for improvement.
Buy-in from the businesses is necessary for success, according to Tuch. But that may not prove easy.
In response to a photo illustrating sidewalk infringement, the business owner said, “I refuse to move my porch, sorry.”
Equinox’s Dena Chandler led attendees in a visual survey during which they rated preferences for design and streetscape elements. The group later broke into two work sessions and came back with recommendations.
Based on the feedback from the stakeholder and community meetings, Equinox will develop a final streetscape plan and document which will provide design guidelines and an implementable plan for the town.
The project is expected to take somewhere around six months to complete.
A comprehensive plan list for future landscape enhancements as well as template sketch plan will also be provided.
The intent of the plan is to have a guiding document for the next 10-15 years.