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Hope VI Grant for Asheville?


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It seems to me, Asheville has a great opportunity unfolding.

The new I-26 corridor will, in all likelyhood, involve a major reconfiguration of "disfunction junction" and the surrounding land. Some proposals have suggested that Patton Ave. be routed onto a single bridge (currently it is a traffic separated 8? lane pair of bridges known as the Smokey Park Bridge), using the second for bikes, pedestrians, and/or a brt line...

One of the biggest struggles, in recent years, for Asheville city leaders has been the availabilty of affordable housing (esp in close proximity to the city center).

Located adjacent to this reconfiguration, is one of the largest public housing projects in Asheville. Hillcrest is accessible only by a single two lane bridge, pedestrian access to the city, is cut off by two major interstate grade highways. A second access, a pedestrian bridge which crosses Patton (now i-26) has been closed for years due to crime and maintainence issues.

A tremendous amout of public land could be opened to private development by the destruction of realestate gobbling exit ramps. This land is within feet of Hillcrest. If that neighborhood were reconfigured and/or integrated into new development, similar to what Charlotte has done with its First Ward, the city could improve a major gateway, create better access to the river/arts district, add to the affordable housing stock and repair the less than desirable conditions it has created for the residents of Hillcrest.

It makes sense to me, but i think there are a lot of questions to address with neighborhood reconfiguration and Hope VI projects...

Would a Hope VI grant work in Asheville? Do you need lots of young "urban pioneers" with disposable income to make a Hope VI project work? Is a Hope VI good? Is it right for Asheville?


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Unfortunately, under the auspices of recent administrations, "the HOPE VI funding pool has sharply declined, dropping from well over $700 million a year to $110 million last year. Some experts expect it be about half that this year." This means it will be difficult for a city like Asheville to get enough of a federal grant to make a meaningful difference. Things like tax credits and non-profits like MHO can help, but it only goes so far.

Hillcrest is in a pretty terrible location, surrounded by freeways on two sides and a steep hill on the other. Something that might improve it as part of the I-26 connector project is decomissioning 19-23 south of the I-26 connector split as a freeway and rebuilding it as an at-grade thoroughfare. This would make Hillcrest much more accessible and, as you mention, open up some land near downtown for development. Without improvements in accessibility, things probably won't get much better at Hillcrest.

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