Demolition of downtown Asheville Art Museum set to begin

The area shaded in gray is the part of the Asheville Art Museum that is set to be demolished.


The Asheville Art Museum is coming down.

Demolition of the core of the museum building in downtown Asheville is set to begin in the next few weeks. The tear-down of more than 20,000 square feet of space on Biltmore Avenue will take about two months, project officials told the Asheville Downtown Commission last week.

The museum has been planning the renovation and raising money for the $24 million project for a decade. On Friday, museum Director Pam Myers told the commission that the museum was ready to push ahead with its remodeling plans.

Myers said the project was the largest capital project for a cultural organization in the history of the city, adding that she felt the museum had an “award-winning design” for the new museum structure. (The museum is enclosed by surrounding buildings, including a historic structure that was the city’s former library building.) The focal point of the modern design of the 55,000-square-foot museum is a massive glass atrium at its front.

The museum raised the $18 million for the construction work, Myers told the commission, and was continuing to raise money for operations. The goal is to provide more exhibition space to show off the museum’s collection of some 9,000 works, as well as to better accommodate visiting exhibitions.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the demolition work following a presentation by the team overseeing it. That presentation was led by architect Alan McGuinn of ARCA Design. He told the commission that Beverly-Grant Inc. would be the demolition contractor and that work could begin March 1 or sooner depending on the process of securing permits. The commission invited public comment on the project; there was none.

The museum’s plans for new construction must still be approved through the city’s regulatory process. The plans will likely go before the city’s Technical Review Committee in early February, then come to the Downtown Commission for a design review, city planner Sasha Vrtunski told the commission.

A crane will go up outside the museum’s entrance, and construction fencing will surround the site. Myers said the museum has a design team working to make the construction fencing an “interactive art installation.” (The museum will remain open at a pop-up location at 175 Biltmore Ave. on the city’s South Slope.)

Commission members peppered McGuinn with series of questions about the construction project’s impact on downtown. Here’s a summary of key points:

-How will Diana Wortham Theatre be impacted?

Construction crews will build a temporary, protected exit out the back of the building to keep the theater operational, McGuinn said. A temporary sprinkler line will be installed, and there will be no reduction in the theater’s occupancy number, he said.

-What’s the impact on Biltmore Avenue?

Construction will take away four parking spaces along Biltmore Avenue in front of the building. A projected sidewalk with Jersey barriers will be installed to keep pedestrian traffic safe and moving, McGuinn said. The sidewalk will be handicapped accessible, he said.

-What’s the impact on events scheduled for Pack Square Park?

There will be minimal impact on the park, and events will go on as scheduled, McGuinn said.

-Will French Broad Chocolate Lounge be affected?

McGuinn said the brick sidewalk leading to the popular chocolate shop will remain open. Construction fencing was moved at their request to improve access, he said.