More than 130 people came to the first of two public meetings on Center Square Park Tuesday night at the Collett Street Recreation Center to help make history in reimagining the grounds of the Historic Burke County Courthouse Square.

Citizens at Tuesday night’s meeting had the opportunity to express their opinions on the project and provide input on what they believe Center Square Park should look like after the renovation. Stimmel Associates and Stitch Design Shop - the North Carolina based architectural firms the City has contracted with to complete the project - were present at the meeting to gather feedback. These firms will take the feedback they collected from citizens and begin creating potential designs for Center Square Park.

“The thing that’s struck us the most is the enthusiasm and the energy from citizens, and the desire to make this space diverse and as universal as it can be so it encompasses all demographics,” said Kimberly Barb with Stimmel Associates.

Chris Jernigan, Main Street Advisory Board Member and Chair of the Center Square Park Steering Committee, opened the meeting by laying the groundwork of what must be done to bring the project to life. Jernigan told the crowd that the Historic Burke County Courthouse and monuments on the square will not be part of the project. In order to bring Center Square Park to life, the City will maximize greenspace on the Courthouse Square lawn and remove the dilapidated jailhouse gallery, which currently houses the Burke Arts Council, and renovate the rock wall around the square.

“We are grateful to the City for what they’ve done to provide our home at the jailhouse gallery,” said Sandra Bennett, President of the Burke Arts Council. “We are taking this opportunity as a chance for us to grow and help more of our county citizens, and to improve as a council overall.”

After citizens had a chance to speak and share their ideas, attendees moved into breakout sessions with the architectural firms. People were able to go to four separate stations with picture boards that contained images of some of Stimmel Associates and Stitch Design Shop’s other projects. At these stations, people were able to share their opinions with the architects and leave handwritten notes on idea boards about what they would like to see take shape on the grounds of Center Square Park.

Several citizens stood up during the public comment period and shared their opinion that the old jailhouse building should not be removed. During the breakout sessions, a vast majority of the attendees spoke one on one with the architects about their desire to move forward with the project and remove the old jailhouse building.

“We are just thrilled by the turnout at tonight’s meeting,” said Main Street Director Sharon Jablonski. “We are thankful to have citizens so engaged in the process of making history and imagining the future of Center Square.”

Notes left by citizens expressed the desire to remove the old jail building, create a contemporary design, keep trees in the area, add casual seating, create interactive artwork, and develop a multi-purpose stage and more.

Stimmel Associates and Stitch Design Shop gathered these notes at the end of the meeting, and will use them to create several potential designs for Center Square Park over the next month. These designs will be presented when the architectural firms return to the next public meeting on August 1. The public meeting on August 1 will be held at the Collett Street Recreation Center from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.

If citizens were unable to attend the meeting but still want to provide feedback on the project, they can send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or stop by the Main Street Office at 112B W. Union St. to put a handwritten note on an idea board from now until July 15. Any emails sent or notes left on idea boards before July 15 will be forwarded to the architectural firms for consideration in designing Center Square Park.

For more information, contact the Main Street Office at 828-438-5252.

More than 130 people attended the first public meeting on Center Square Park.  The next meeting will be on August 1, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, at the Collett Street Recreation Center.

Citizens were able to discuss their ideas for the design of Center Square Park with the architects at four different breakout stations.

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