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Council stops clock, orders new round of art proposals

Councilman Jeff Collis, Mayor Barbara Volk and Councilman Steve Caraker listen to clock tower ideas. Councilman Jeff Collis, Mayor Barbara Volk and Councilman Steve Caraker listen to clock tower ideas.

The Hendersonville City Council on Thursday pulled the plug — or at least called timeout — on a clock tower for the corner of Seventh Avenue and Main Street.

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The council continued to struggle with the second of two pieces of public art planned for the final two-block Main Street makeover. It has budgeted $70,000 for the Seventh Avenue piece and has had trouble arriving at a consensus on what to place as a permanent city gateway that could remain for generations.
The council on Thursday approved a motion by Councilman Steve Caraker to again ask artists to pitch a proposal for the public corner. This time the council wants to make clear it's looking for a piece "that is more in keeping with the flavor and culture and personality of Hendersonville," as Caraker put it.
The council's action came after landscape architect Dave Hazzard, of Luther Smith & Associates, presented cost estimates for decorative clock structures. Styles ranged from a simple and comparatively cheap pole clock at $20,000 to a 60-foot clock tower of brick or stone costing $800,000.
"At the risk of upsetting the apple cart, this thing is starting to outgrow the budget pretty quick," Caraker said. "I would like to see the possibility of the council giving him some direction, whatever the square footage (of the base), put it out for another proposal, (and tell artists), here's the square footage, here's the budget, propose something that will honor Hendersonville, its history and heritage."

The council directed Main Street coordinator Lew Holloway to restart the process of inviting artists to create something for Hendersonville.
Councilman Ron Stephens endorsed the idea and emphasized that the historic flavor matters most.
"I would hope that we make it clear that this has got to reflect historic downtown Hendersonville," he said. "Nobody comes here for abstract art. People come here because it's a great historic beautiful downtown."
Council members also said inviting art proposals for a second round would give citizens more time to comment on the artwork. A few downtown merchants have complained that a downtown clock is a worn cliché that would not distinguish Hendersonville from many other towns that use an old clock as their identifying image.