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orulz

Glen Rock Apartments

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Saw these two articles, in the Mountain Xpress and Citizen-Times.

The play-by-play:

A couple weeks/months ago, Asheville City Council approved a new zoning district, "Urban Place", which calls for mixed use development and allows residential density of up to 64 units per acre. City Council made a point to say that this would be an excellent fit for their urban waterfront vison. There are some restrictions on "Urban Place" zoning to make it somewhat more neighborhood-friendly, such as a ban on bars and nightclubs, but all in all it gives developers a much greater degree of freedom to pursue whatever uses and density they see fit.

The first petition for "Urban Place" designation came before City Council the other day. A non-profit affordable housing developer, Mountain Housing Opportunities, wants to redevelop the 19th century Glen Rock Hotel as modestly priced condominiums and build a 110 unit apartment complex next door on a 2.1 acre lot where the train station used to be.

While this lot is a bit further away from downtown than some other parts of the river district, and it's separated from the actual waterfront by the huge chasm formed by the Norfolk Southern railroad yard, this project sounds like it could be a good start. I can't tell whether the housing units will be 100% affordable or mixed income; regardless, I hope the landlords plan to maintain it properly so that it doesn't degrade into a 110 unit dilapidated housing project with an "Urban Place" designation. The Mountain X article claims that rents for 1-3 bedroom units will be in the range of $300-$675, reflecting both the developer's non-profit nature and the area's state of neglect, but still too low to be market rate.

The river ain't a "hoppin'" place, and while the "abandoned industrial" character is keeping land values low for now, hopefully things will start to turn around fairly soon.

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This is good news though I think Asheville could do more to encourage development on the river. I would recommend they do some infrastructure improvements such as building a riverwalk such as that in Georgetown, SC.

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Found this page about The Glen Rock, the mixed-income, 7-story, mixed-use project approved several months ago in Asheville's river district. This will be the first step towards the city's restoration of the Urban Riverfront. By all accounts, the commercial district around the depot never quite recovered from the 1916 flood, but if this project happens as approved then this neighborhood will be well on its way.

Construction is supposed to begin in 2006, with completion 12-18 months later.

There are site plans, models, and elevations on the site linked above. I really like how this integrates with and compliments the existing historic buildings.

Click here for an aerial of the site.

And here for an article from the Citizen-Times.

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A number of things bode well for the Asheville riverfront over the next years and decades, including:

1. The river district is a bit like downtown was in the early 80s - studios in old buildings that had previously been abandoned for a long time. The architecture may not be as distinctive as downtown, and some buildings have been demolished or even collapsed/burned. It really sucks that the old Chesterfield Cotton Mill burned down in 1995, but the area has a very "gritty" feel which is not a universally bad thing.

2. The city has a well thought-out and popular redevelopment plan, called the Wilma Dykeman Riverway, and the zoning tool to make it happen - the "urban place" designation used for the Glen Rock apartments. The Glen Rock kind of plays off the grittiness and goes for an "industrial" appearance. I think it'll work well with its surroudnings.

3. There's a good chance that the I-26 connector could improve access to the river district (one of its major shortcomings) by turning one of the I-240 bridges back into a surface street (Patton Avenue).

4. As downtown Asheville becomes more commercial and less "quirky," other districts are stepping in to fill the void, such as Haywood Road in West Asheville. The river district could play a big role here and become the foil to the comparatively neat and tidy downtown.

One difficulty will be working around the (huge) railroad yard, but hopefully they can pull it off.

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One difficulty will be working around the (huge) railroad yard, but hopefully they can pull it off.

I think it has another more important difficulty. I don't mean to be the eternal pessimist... I have high hopes for the River district too... but it floods. Not just water in the streets floods, i mean it f l l l o o o o d s. I'm sure you know this, but it can't be forgotten that the river has exceeded its banks by 10-15 feet twice in less than 100 years. It is gritty for a reason.

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Something does need to be done with that area. and a mixed use development job over there would be really great.

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Hmm. How about something like Rockett's Landing in Richmond (official site) for the Asheville riverfront. Wouldn't that be something? I wonder whether the James has as much of a flooding problem as the French Broad.

I'd love to see more boats on the French Broad, too, rather than just the occasional canoe and fishing boat. Of course the river isn't deep enough for a full-blown marina, but surely something could happen there. Way back in the 1850s, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged and blasted out the French Broad so it was navigable by small steamboats all the way from Knoxville to Brevard. Of course the dam at Douglas Lake plus a number of low bridges are in the way now. And people enjoy rafting and kayaking the rapids north and south of town too... but you have to wonder whether the calm section in and around town couldn't be used for boating. Just something to think about :)

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The urban areas of the French Broad River would be ideal for tour boats, but until there's something substantial to see from the water, that's a no go. It probably wouldn't be a good idea until years after the revitalization of the riverfront has been completed.

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This past weekend, I visited the future location of this project for the first time in a year. No pictures (kicking myself for that) but I was left with a distinct impression about the area.

First, it was almost 10 years ago that the cotton mill burned, but gosh it would be nice to have it back.

I was struck with the river district's grunginess, but I am also quite optimistic about its potential. Already some of the derelict buildings are being renovated and reused for shops; many others have been converted as-is into studios. I also noticed a recently completed sidewalk project near the cluster of buildings at Riverside and Lyman. I predict that as investment in the River District picks up and it becomes more livable, it will take Lexington Avenue's place as Asheville's quirky underbelly.

While I was walking around, a train entering the yard occupied the Lyman Street crossing for a good 15 minutes. I guess this is just another one of the challenges facing the area.

I am very excited about the Glen Rock project, because it could be the catalyst to start a chain reaction. What can be renovated will be renovated and new construction will connect the dots. Unlike downtown where NIMBYs abound and developers must be extremely careful about preserving the area's historical character, developing the river district will be much easier and will probably occur faster than you'd think.

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A new article in the C-T about development in the River District mentions the Glen Rock:

Builders, artists eye changes in Asheville's River District. Sounds like the Glen Rock project is now incorporated with some other MHO projects in the same neighborhood to build townhomes.

Sig n of progress

One larger project on the cusp of the district is moving ahead — the planned renovation of the Glenrock Hotel and the addition of 185 townhouses, condominiums and apartments by Mountain Housing Opportunities. The sale of city-owned land around Ralph Street cleared the way for the $32.5 million to $42.5 million project by the affordable housing nonprofit. Some users of the district said they look forward to such projects that will include mid-priced homes and community space.

We've been hearing that this development is in the works for quite some time.

The design is very ambitious, and it will bring lots of housing, retail, and most importantly ACTIVITY to the area.

However I've always been a bit worried that the design might be too ambitious and would have to be scaled back, as in, removing some or all of the retail spaces, cutting out some apartment units, trading the built-in parking deck for a surface parking lot, etc.

Does anybody know if the original vision for the Glen Rock site is still the one MHO is planning to build?

Again, see the architect's page.. for more info.

Also, there's some news regarding MHO development in the River area here...

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There was an open house at the Glen Rock today as part of the Studio stroll. There was a great photo exhibit of the neighborhood pre Urban Renewal up, along with some of the plans for the new building. It is still slated to be built as is - with the old Glen Rock hotel housing artist studios and the new building containing condos and apartments. They are still securing some funding, and estimate it could be 12-18 months before ground is broken on the project.

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There was an open house at the Glen Rock today as part of the Studio stroll. There was a great photo exhibit of the neighborhood pre Urban Renewal up, along with some of the plans for the new building. It is still slated to be built as is - with the old Glen Rock hotel housing artist studios and the new building containing condos and apartments. They are still securing some funding, and estimate it could be 12-18 months before ground is broken on the project.

You didn't happen to take some pictures inside the old Glen Rock did you?

The 12-18 months sounds about right; when I e-mailed MHO and the architects about this a year or so ago, they said they hoped to break ground sometime in 2008.

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You didn't happen to take some pictures inside the old Glen Rock did you?

The 12-18 months sounds about right; when I e-mailed MHO and the architects about this a year or so ago, they said they hoped to break ground sometime in 2008.

I did actually,

here is my photoset on flickr.

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Looks like the Glen Rock is going through the approval process now. It goes before the TRC for zoning aproval on April 16th. The project appears to have been downsized somewhat. Initial renderings called for three levels of parking, and lots of retail storefronts lining both Ralph and Depot streets. The current master plan calls for just one level of structured parking, with retail spaces only along Depot Street and probably residential units at street level facing Ralph.

This also lets us know MHO's plan for the phasing of construction. Phase I is restoration of the one-story building at the corner of Depot and Bartlett. Phase II, the new construction, will be split into phase IIa and IIb. Phase III will be restoration of the old Glen Rock hotel. The gravel lot across Depot Street, once the site of Asheville's train station, will be used as parking as a part of Phase IIa.

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Looks like the Glen Rock finally broke ground this week.

GRD1.JPG

GRD2.JPG

GRD3.JPG

Downsized from the original plan of 6-7 stories to an (IMO) more sane 4-5. The original plan called for 2 stories of commercial throughout, which IMO was way overbuilding for the river district as it is today. Small steps, let the momentum build; don't build such a huge project that it absorbs all the potential the area has for the next 5 years.

The renovation of the old Glen Rock Hotel is underway too and supposedly the retail spaces should be done sometime this year.

The apartments will be dirt cheap: $325-$700/month which to me says subsidized / income-restricted housing.

Articles here and here.

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It's not much, but Ashvegas has a photo of the construction on the Glen Rock. It's pretty awesome to see this thing moving forward, after first hearing about it four and a half years ago.

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I've been following the construction of this one and what's being built doesn't match with what's shown on the latest master plan from the Development Mapper. They have eliminated the integrated parking. Looking at MHO's website confirms this. Instead, there will be 20 spaces on-site, 54 spaces across the street (where the Southern railroad station used to be) and 44 spaces on-street on Ralph and Depot.

So now I wonder where those 20 spaces will go? Maybe in the spot where "phase 2B" was originally planned?

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