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DOWNTOWN ROUNDUP: Work to start soon on public restrooms

Public restrooms are expected to open by late spring in the 100 block of Fifth Avenue West. Public restrooms are expected to open by late spring in the 100 block of Fifth Avenue West.

When it comes to downtown, parking and bathrooms are the complaints that downtown development director Lew Holloway hears the most. After years of talk about public rest rooms downtown and where they would go, the City Council finally acted, authorizing the project in the 500 block of Fifth Avenue West next to the Dandelion restaurant.

The project, currently under design, will include a men’s room (three stalls and three urinals), a six-stall women’s room and a family rest room. All three bathrooms will have baby changing tables. The city will use the upstairs for the downtown development office. Each floor has 2,200 square feet.

“We’re outfitting it for our programming needs,” said Holloway, including storage, volunteer meeting and work rooms, and potential staff increases “we see on the horizon.”

The City Council is expected toaward a contract for the work in November.

The hours?

“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Holloway said. “We’re talking to other municipalities about what’s worked well for them and what hasn’t. I’ve talked with folks at Black Mountain, which has a public facility, and folks at Highlands.”

The public restrooms, the only ones available on the north end of Main Street, are expected to be open by mid to late spring.

Seventh Avenue streetscape

The city also is accelerating efforts at Seventh Avenue revitalization. The City Council is expected to OK a rezoning this week of 65 lots in a five-block area between Seventh Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The rezoning allows greater flexibility in development. Planning and design is under way for the new police station, on Ashe Street, and streetscape work “is starting to heat up over the next six months,” Holloway said. “I think that’ll start to get interesting and exciting. There’s going to be more stuff popping up over there over the next couple of months.”

As for a hotel downtown, “We’re still trying to be an active partner in helping property owners in and around the district identify a way to get that done,” he said.

And finally, after bathrooms and parking, the rooftop restaurant may be the third most-asked question. More than six years under construction, in the 200 block, the building is close to completion.

“Latest I heard was that they were working through final C.O. (certificate of occupancy) and I had gotten word that the county was ready to sign off on it,” he said. “I don’t know what that translates to for them to actually getting open.”