Akzona Building excavation 1978
On Sept. 30, 1970, American Enka, International Salt Company, and Organon, Inc. merged to form Akzona, Inc. with plans to establish its headquarters in the Northwestern Bank building (later, BB&T; soon, Vandre Hotel). American Enka, a Dutch company, had begun production at its rayon plant on Smoky Park Highway on July 1, 1929. The plan for the new Akzona Building (now the Biltmore Building) included razing North Pack Square and, to accommodate a new bank building, demolishing the Legal and Commerce Buildings. The Asheville Revitalization Commission endorsed the plan, except for Chandler Gordon, who objected to the statement urging “City Council to give its fullest support.” The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County ended up negotiating the preservation of South Pack Square. The “Pack Square Rehabilitation Project,” as it was called, included burial of above-ground wires; street paving; landscaping; pool and fountain construction; and changes to traffic and parking patterns, all funded by the city. On Sept. 22, 1977, City Council approved Akzona’s site plan, said to demolish buildings worth $300,000 to construct a $6 million one. Architect I.M. Pei said the office building will “make Pack Square what it should be and what it was at one time,” though there would be no shops and no money to assist displaced businesses. Photo courtesy of author.
--Rob Neufeld, RNeufeld@charter.net