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orulz

Woodfin wants to build a Downtown

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Woodfin, a sleepy, humble, (and IMO somewhat shabby-looking - this is from having lived just on the Asheville side of the Woodfin city line from the time I was 4 until I turned 18) northern suburb of Asheville.

According to this article, in partnership with the developers who brought us the Reynolds Mountain subdivision, the greatest impetus so far for revised hillside development ordinances in Asheville, they want to build a downtown from scratch somewhere along Merrimon Avenue, though they don't give any more details about the location.

Here are the details given in the article:

432 single- and multiple-family residential units.

120,000 square feet of village shops.

179,000 square feet of retail space.

27,000 square feet of restaurants.

170,000-square-foot business/medical center.

25,000-square-foot professional/civic center.

120,000-square-foot municipal parking.

They're talking about underground parking - which is impressive, but it sounds very New Urban to me, and they specifically say it won't be exactly like a traditional downtown, so it's unlikely that it will actually front Merrimon or even include sidewalks along Merrimon for that matter. My guess, it'll be an internally-focused walkable district a-la Biltmore Park in the vacant rocky lot next to the Food Lion.

I really want to see a site plan, but the paper has a rendering (posted here later.)

This is to be a $220 million project, $195 million financed by Reynolds Mountain Development, and $25 million financed by TIF bonds repaid over time by the developers. I think this area could qualify as blighted on the basis of tackyness alone, but I wonder how kindly the state will take to TIFs being used here.

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I sincerely doubt the Reynolds Mountain folks would be interested in sprucing up their community at all had they not chosen to build their upscale subdivision in a dump like Woodfin. But they did, and now Thad and Bootsie will have a place to stroll when they deign to descend from Mt. Olympus (er, I mean... Reynolds Mountain).

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I just hope this "new downtown" does not turn into a pseudo "walkable district" that is actually nothing more than an outdoor mall without street accessibility and thereforce forcing people to drive and park there to begin with.

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^ That is exactly what I expect it will be. Check the rendering on the CT page.

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Have we really gone an entire week devoid of urban development news in Asheville?

Well, here's the latest update on the Woodfin project, courtesy of the Asheville Daily Planet.

The article itself doesn't say much above and beyond what the Citizen-Times says, but it does provide a site plan.

woodfin-downtown.jpg

I wonder whether those buildings along Merrimon Avenue / Weaverville Highway will face the street at all, or whether this will be an entirely internally-focused development? That makes a difference because if it faces the street, it opens the door for and encourages others to follow suit and make synergistic urban developments. Inwardly-focused new-urbanish shopping centers try to keep everybody inside.

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So the downtown we're talking about here is going to consist of the 11 orange buildings in the lower right?

Is that it? Color me underwhelmed.

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Hopefully it won't turn into yet another Best Buy anchored shopping center. I heard that they were going to go for more upscale indie businesses and art galleries. It'll be neat to watch this take off. Nothing like a brand new 'historic' downtown area!

For a similiar underground parking NU: http://www.atlanticstation.com/ was the latest large project in Atlanta.

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This article briefly mentions the "downtown" project as well as other projects in Woodfin: The incredible expanding town

The mayor touts the business friendly environment and fewer regulations than Asheville and the county. I fear this attitude will not do much to increase the quality of life for Woodfin's residents.

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Well, the plan has changed quite a bit since the time I first posted about it. The central road through the development will be called "North Merrimon Avenue." This street will branch off from US 25 at the woodfin city limits (Beaver Drive), where US 25 changes names from Merrimon Avenue to Weaverville Highway. So this "North Merrimon" will carry the "Merrimon" name into the town of woodfin. It will rejoin US 25 at the New Bridge onramp to I-26, near the Hot Spot.

Here is a site plan:

North-Merrimon-Graphic.jpg

Seems the shopping center around the Food Lion will be demolished (the Food Lion itself will remain), and a couple significant interconnections with the external street grid will be made. I actually like this project quite a bit... it's just the other part of the Reynolds Mountain development (the part on top of the mountain) that I don't like.

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Well, the plan has changed quite a bit since the time I first posted about it.

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I suspect that the biggest transit concession that they could possibly make would be to reroute the #54 (five round trips per day) onto "North Merrimon" through the development. It would be great if they could build some bus shelters for that, but I somehow doubt Woodfin's development regulations are sophisticated enough to require it.

There actually is a rail line that ends just across the street from here. The spur line that follows the east bank of the French Broad actually curves around and terminates just behind the Westall Chandley hardware store. Unfortunately, I doubt this rail line will see transit use in our lifetimes, if ever. It's in awful condition. North of Silverline Plastic, the spur has seen basically no maintenance for decades. Ballast is basically gone, and the rail is lightweight and probably original to when the line was constructed.

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