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Asheville: November News

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*Rather than clutter up the forum with continuous dribs and drabs of news from Asheville, I've decided to start a monthly news thread. I know we're almost at the end of November but still. Let's get started!*


From the Asheville Citizen-Times (11/22/03)


By Clarke Morrison, Staff Writer

ASHEVILLE - Key stakeholders in the planned redevelopment of the historic area south of Pack Square known as The Block have agreed to form a task force to better involve the public and attempt to iron out differences as to how the work should proceed.

"This is not strictly just an effort to resolve differences between people," said Jesse Ray, vice chair of the YMI Cultural Center. "It's an effort to see that the project is carried out for the betterment of the community."

The Asheville Downtown Commission recently approved a proposal that drew vocal opposition from some property owners who said they had not been adequately consulted.

On Tuesday, City Council postponed action on a plan to disperse $1.1 million in federal funds.

The proposal by the Eagle/Market Streets Development Corp. includes rehabilitating historic buildings in the area that once was the commercial center for the African-American community, constructing 47 rental apartments, and building more than 14,000 square feet of business space and new tenant parking.

But property owners like Gene Ellison, co-owner of the Ritz Building, have objected, saying the project conflicts with the South Pack Square Redevelopment Plan approved by City Council in 1993.

Of particular concern to Ellison is a four-story building proposed to be built in a parking lot next to the Ritz.

In a meeting Thursday, property owners and organizations that would be affected by the project agreed that redevelopment of The Block should proceed but that a task force should first review the redevelopment plan.

Thursday's meeting was called by Asheville Citizen-Times President and Publisher Virgil L. Smith, chairman of the YMI board.

The task force will include property owners and representatives of the YMI Cultural Center, Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, the Eagle/Market Streets Development Corp. and the city. The group plans to hold a public hearing.

"I think the questions people have will be answered, and that will facilitate the development process," said the Rev. John Grant, pastor at Mount Zion.

Contact Morrison at 232-5849 or [email protected]


*hauntedheadnc sez, "I'm glad things are moving along. In Asheville it's customary for NIMBY's to delay everything for a few months, almost like some sort of fraternity initiation, but I'm glad at least they're filling the time productively instead of just sitting around with their thumbs up their butts. I'm also glad that the owner of the Ritz Building objects to the plan out of simple greed rather than scorching stupidity. See, I can stomach it if someone doesn't want a project to go through because they'd lose the light and air from a window overlooking the parking lot, but if someone were to oppose a project simply to protect that parking lot, I think I'd have to do something rash, such as dig out my rifle and go climb a belltower. People in Asheville are so determined to protect downtown Asheville exactly as it is they're willing to stall most development proposals until they die of neglect, but at least no one's going around being stupid enough to come to a parking lot's rescue just to keep things the way they are."*

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From the Asheville Citizen-Times (11/22/03)


By Mark Barrett, Staff Writer

ASHEVILLE - City Council is not scheduled to vote until next spring whether to allow the Grove Park Inn to proceed with plans to put a 10-story building on the edge of Pack Square and City-County Plaza.

But comments by inn President and CEO Craig Madison at a forum on the project Thursday suggest it is possible that economic factors will doom the project before council even has a chance to decide.

Madison, on Friday declined through an inn official to elaborate on the comments he made Thursday.

Madison told an overflow crowd at the forum that the inn may find that building the structure on a third of an acre at the corner of College and Market streets would not be a good investment. The inn is looking at other downtown property as a result, he said.

He called the cost of building an underground parking area for the $25 million building, planned to contain luxury residential condominiums and retail and restaurant space on the first floor, "extraordinary."

"At this point, it's not looking so good" that the building will turn out to be a good investment for the inn, Madison said at the event held by the League of Women Voters of Asheville and Buncombe County.

The comments were "a little bit of a surprise," Julie Brandt, a member of a group opposing construction of the building, said Friday. "It was good news."

City Council in September approved giving the inn an option on the property that allows either side to withdraw later. The inn would pay the city $10,000 if it abandons the project and the city would pay the inn up to $15,000 if council calls a halt.

It appears council will make that decision in roughly four or five months if the inn stays the course.

That's when architects for the inn expect to be ready to present a proposed design for the building to the city for approval, said Jay Winer, the inn's executive promotions director.

Architects visited three or four weeks ago, he said.

"They've gone around town. They've talked to people on the street. They've tried to get a feel for what Asheville wants," Winer said.

The location of the building was a key factor in the minds of many people attending Thursday's forum.

"I'm not against the project, but I'm not sure it should go where it's proposed," local resident Elwood Miles said before the forum.

"I can safely say that if the Grove Park (Inn) had proposed this building two blocks in any other direction there wouldn't be a tenth of the opposition," speaker Barry Summers of opposition group People Advocating Real Conservancy said during the forum.

A plan to reconfigure City-Council Plaza and Pack Square put together for the nonprofit Pack Square Conservancy is on its own timetable. The plan calls for an amphitheater in front of city hall and the county courthouse, conversion of some parking and street space to green space and increased landscaping and other amenities in the area.

A drive to raise the $6.5 million needed for that project begins next spring, said conservancy President Carol King. Construction should start in 2005 and end in 2006 with a grand opening in 2007, she said.

Contact Barrett at 232-5833 or [email protected]


*hauntedheadnc sez, "Poop."*

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Interesting..I will be up in Asheville this weekend, my sister-in-law is on one of the City of Asheville commisions, so I will see if she has any inside information.

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