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July 22, 2014

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From left, Dr. Terence Milstead, Zach Swick, Kaitlyn Havens, Zaak Havens, Ben Dannemiller, Blowing Rock Town Manager Scott Fogleman, Christopher Todd and architect Jim Pitts at last Thursday’s presentation of “Under One Roof.” Photo by Jeff Eason

Originally published: 2014-05-22 10:57:29
Last modified: 2014-05-22 10:58:14

New gateways for downtown Blowing Rock proposed

By Jeff Eason

It seems like it has taken forever to widen Valley Boulevard (U.S. Hwy. 321) between the Shoppes on the Parkway to the Green Park Inn. In reality, that project will be completed in less than a year.

That begs the question, what will it all look like when it the job is done? Will Blowing Rock be as inviting as before? Will a four-lane highway lead people to zip through our area without visiting Blowing Rock’s Main Street?

These are some of the questions that a graduate school class at Appalachian State University tackled this past semester.

As part of ASU’s Department of Geography and Planning, Dr. Terence Milstead’s class developed a strategy called “Under One Roof: Town of Blowing Rock Gateway and Wayfinding Study 2014.”

The class worked in conjunction with architects Jim Pitts and Steven Price, Blowing Rock Town Manager Scott Fogleman, John Aldridge of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, and ASU professor Dr. Richard Crepeau.

The results of the project were presented to the Blowing Rock Town Council and other interested persons at Blowing Rock Town Hall on May 8.

“John Aldridge approached me last November as I was about to teach a class with a studio format,” said Milstead. “We were looking for a project—a real world planning project—and this fit the bill.”

The class spent the spring semester developing a plan for three gateways into Blowing Rock. The northern gateway would be located on 321 near the entrance to the Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway, the southern gateway would be located just south of the Green Park Inn, and the central gateway would be located at the intersection of Valley Boulevard and Sunset Drive.

“As part of the design initiative, we had to find out some things about the character and identity of Blowing Rock,” said graduate student Kaitlyn Havens. “Why are we here? What is the identity of the community? And what are its boundaries?”

According to the planning students, their study of Blowing Rock found a number of themes to the architecture and overall character of the town. Those themes include a park atmosphere, family friendly, a rustic style, an emphasis on safety, and the repeated use of stone, metal and wood building materials.

“When 321 is completed, the northern entrance to Blowing Rock will be moved closer to town,” said graduate student Christopher Todd. “We envision putting in a park with five parking spots leading up to that new entrance.”

Each of the three new entrances would include a sign letting motorists know that they were entering Blowing Rock. The sign at the intersection of Valley Boulevard and Sunset Drive is designed to entice people to take the half-mile trip uphill to downtown Blowing Rock.

During the semester-long project, the student team conducted 21 interviews with Blowing Rock residents, worked with building and landscape architects, studied the NCDOT’s 321 widening plan, and investigated the gateway plans for other, similar towns.

“A successful gateway project must be expressive and functional,” the students concluded in their gateway project. “It should capture the spirit of the place where it resides as well as direct, clarify, and explain. The research conducted by the team sought to identify the intimate essence of Blowing Rock through resident interviews and a focus group, academic research, on-site observations, and investigating similar gateway projects.”

For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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