Asheville Tribune: In letter, Pack Place denies city of Asheville claims of being in default of lease

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Pack_Place1The Asheville Tribune covers the latest shot fired in the ongoing war of words between the city of Asheville and Pack Place, the downtown cultural center. Reporter Roger McCredie has the story:

Pack Place, Asheville’s integrated science and cultural center, has notified the City of Asheville that it “will take all legal actions necessary to defend its right and the rights of its member corporations” against what has been described as a “hostile takeover attempt” by city government.

The move came even as the board of Pack Place’s smallest tenant, the sixty-year-old Colburn Earth Sciences Museum, adopted a resolution to leave Pack Place altogether, provided the city pays it $580,000 in relocation expenses, rather than allow itself to be “squeezed out” by the city’s maneuvering.

In a letter to atty. Fred Barbour, who has been acting for the city in its recent dealings with Pack Place, atty. Mary Robinson categorically rejected allegations of maintenance neglect set forth by City Manager Gary Jackson in a January 27 letter to the Pack Place Board. Jackson demanded that Pack Place pay more than $800,000 — $419,000 of it within 60 days – or be considered in default, in which case, he said, the city would exercise an alleged right to assume control of the facility. Jackson said the money represented the cost of repairs and maintenance which Pack Place had failed to perform “for years.”

Robinson’s letter called Jackson’s neglect claim “completely groundless,” noting that he “does not provide notice of any failure to perform any provision of the lease.” Furthermore, Robinson said, the existing lease “does not indicate any requirement to pay any sum of money to the City of Asheville.”

Click over to read the full story. Click here to read the Pack Place attorney’s letter.

In February, Asheville city officials said they were willing to negotiate with the board that governs the Pack Place cultural center in downtown, despite a letter city government sent Pack Place in January declaring the organization in default of a lease agreement and demanding thousands of dollars of immediate repairs.

The nonprofit Pack Place Education Arts and Science Center was created more than 20 years ago on Pack Square to design, fund, build and manage a new cultural center on Pack Square. Pack Place opened in 1992 in a a sprawling building home to a group of nonprofit arts and science partners. It was a key part of a plan to help revitalize downtown, which at the time was struggling to bounce back from a severe decline. Pack Place is now home to the Asheville Art Museum, Diana Wortham Theatre and Colburn Earth Science Museum. Another partner, the YMI Cultural Center, is located in a separate building nearby on Eagle Street.

For the past year, city officials and Pack Place have been trying to work out the details of a new, direct lease between the city and the art museum, as well as a separate lease with Pack Place. In the February meeting, Manheimer and Hunt called the current working relationship among Pack Place partners dysfunctional. A new lease agreement with Pack Place should include a terms that spell out how building maintenance will be funded, specify the rights and responsibilities of member tenants and clearly state who will exert management authority, they said.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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  1. Bill T. April 3, 2014

    The city needs to take over Diana Wortham and the poor management there–and especially rip down that light monstrosity of a sign that now blinds everyone on Biltmore Avenue.

    1. Murphy April 3, 2014

      The current “monstrosity” is an improvement, by leaps and bounds, over the previous signage that stood at the corner of Biltmore Avenue and North Pack Square…

  2. arts lover April 2, 2014

    Pack Place served an important and useful function when it was created, and it has given birth to – or helped bring to maturity – strong partner organizations. It may now be time for this umbrella organization to fold itself up and say “Mission accomplished; job well done.” To just continue to an intermediary landlord between the city and its constituent organizations seems a waste of resources and talent. The various arts “umbrella” organizations – Civic Arts Council, the Arts Coalition, the Asheville Area Arts Council, etc. – appear to no longer serve a strong need. Individual artists need advocates and supporters, but the strong arts organizations do not need to be under anybody’s umbrella. A “round table” of their board presidents and artistic/executive directors might help communications and planning among them.


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