The city of Asheville owns the property that lies adjacent to the Basilica of St. Lawrence and US Cellular Center, and it is a proposed site for yet another downtown hotel. There are new hotels slated for the BB&T, Three Brothers, and TK Tripp sites. In a survey last year by Asheville’s People Advocating Real Conservancy committee, Asheville voters want a public park in the space by the basilica. Others wanted to sell the land to the church. Only 13 percent favored a hotel. Others with agendas in the building industry weigh in with perspectives for “urban open space,” claiming that the “green” park we have in front of our civic buildings is ample to offset all the clamor of downtown Asheville, which provides a central hub for robust tourist momentum and continuous influx of people moving to this area. My position here is that green spaces make cities livable and contribute to collective well-being. It is therefore that I am in support of a green St. Lawrence Park – Not a hotel or any other building project in this location.
I have lived and worked in Asheville since 1994 and have witnessed our small city become a very different place during the course of that time. Development now is rampant, with investors, many of whom are from out of town, consuming the natural landscape with development projects. The result of these projects has breathed new life into abandoned buildings and has guided the way to a thriving downtown tourist-based economy. It has also led to crowding, traffic, and parking issues. More can be said, but in my opinion, it is wise to cultivate green space and the preservation of Asheville’s original culture and nature. There are sideeffects to unchecked development. Quality of life is not all about the money.