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Asheville: Neighbors Want Say in...


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*Sorry to be posting this a day late, but for some reason I couldn't access skyscraperamerica yesterday!*

From the Asheville Citizen-Times (11/06/03)


by Angie Newsome

ASHEVILLE - When Amy and Jesse Plaster bought a two-story building on Eagle Street two-and-a-half years ago, they of course checked out the neighborhood.

Local development leaders from Eagle/Market Streets Development Corp. showed diagrams and schematics with redevelopment plans for south of Pack Square. Commonly known as "The Block," the area is a part of an extensive push for growth downtown. It was once the commercial cornerstone of Asheville's African-American community.

Plans from 2000 showed a small building and a community market space filling what was then - and now - a parking lot between the Ritz and Del Cardo buildings on South Market Street, just east of the Plasters' building, Jesse Plaster said.

But two weeks ago, Plaster said, news came that all that had changed. Plans for a four-story structure replaced plans for the small building. Gone was the public market space.

Plaster and other nearby property owners were surprised. They requested input into the proposal.

On Wednesday, City Council agreed that the development corporation should go out and get more community input.

"There are more questions right now than answers," Mayor Charles Worley said.

The council was set to discuss the corporation's proposal on Wednesday, but postponed the item after some South Pack Square property owners like Plaster said they were concerned about the corporation's plans.

Gene Ellison, co-owner of the Ritz building on South Market Street, contacted some council members about the new construction proposal after the Asheville Downtown Commission approved its design on Tuesday. The commission conducts mandatory reviews of downtown development plans but has little enforcement power.

The council is now scheduled to discuss $1.14 million in new funding for the project at a Nov. 18 work session. Council members had previously approved the corporation's grant proposals requesting the funding, which comes from the federal government and is disbursed locally.

According to city documents, the corporation's project budget reaches just less than $3 million, and the agency has already received more than $600,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money for the project.

On Tuesday, property owners had appealed to the downtown commission to postpone another vote on the development corporation's proposal, this time on the project's design. Despite protests from Ellison and others, the commission approved the design and recommended mediation between the developer and property owners.

The approval seemed to "ramrod" property owners out of the process, Ellison said. Ellison also claimed the building would violate the 1993 South Pack Square Redevelopment Plan.

The 1993 city-approved redevelopment plan offers a framework for the area's development. Ellison was a member of council at the time it was passed.

Plaster said that although he supports nearly all of what the corporation proposes, "We were surprised by the change and kind of taken aback by the sort of fast track process that's been in effect since the plans were released."

Elizabeth Russell, the corporation's executive director, said she welcomed more feedback.

"It gives us more time to gather community input, make sure everyone's heard," she said. "We just hope the interest rates don't go up in the meantime."

Contact Newsome at 232-5856 or [email protected].


*hauntedheadnc sez, "It's not that they are against the development, but rather are upset about changes to a plan everyone thought was set in stone. I'd be a little upset too if I'd been counting on a small building with a public market only to see it switched for a large building without a market. Two-story or four-story, I hope the final building has a public market in it."*

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