While much attention has been paid to the struggles of individual businesses that have borne the economic brunt of the pandemic, Asheville’s business organizations, which provide a critical framework for entrepreneurs to network, collaborate and market their wares, have also taken a hit.
A second reading of the amended ordinance could come before the commissioners for a vote at the board’s Tuesday, April 20, meeting.
The new plan will include a hybrid model that will allow residents to either call in or attend commission meetings in person. In June, the public comment policy will shift entirely to in-person, eliminating the option for the public to call in to the meetings.
The county funds represent half of the $70,000 price tag for hiring a consultant to determine what’s next for the location.
“[The funding is] intended to be a pandemic response; it’s not actually intended to end homelessness. It just is, happily, an opportunity for us to end homelessness, because that is also a response to the coronavirus,” says Emily Ball, homeless services lead for the city of Asheville.
Of the various downtown bathroom options available prior to the pandemic, only the city-owned facility at 29 Haywood St. was available 24/7. Since it closed, unsheltered residents have very few options.
Outside of COVID-19, the top three business issues reported in the latest Asheville Downtown Association survey remain virtually identical to those of previous years: downtown cleanliness, safety and parking for both visitors and employees.
The appointment could shape the outcome of the general Asheville City Council election on Tuesday, Nov. 3. And the very night that the appointee is expected to take their oath of office — Tuesday, Sept. 22 — they will also cast what may be the deciding vote on funding for the Asheville Police Department.
With the area’s formerly booming tourism industry mostly on hold as COVID-19 infection rates in nearby markets remain high, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority faces an uncertain future. Add in a leadership transition, potential changes to the legislation that controls the distribution of local occupancy tax revenues and public hostility to the industry, and more questions than answers emerge.
While Harvest Records remains shuttered, the business has started offering curbside pickup, mail orders and the occasional local delivery as co-owner Mark Capon tries to reimagine the usual record store experience through a virtual platform.
John Henry Gloyne, tattoo artist and co-owner of Serpent & the Rainbow Tattoo, notes that reputable tattoo parlors had numerous safety precautions in place even before COVID-19. “A good rule of thumb in tattooing is, and not to sound outlandish, but you want to treat every person you tattoo like they have HIV because that means that you’re going through every step to protect yourself,” he says.
Ruth Pike-Elliot and her wife Bren are expecting their first child on June 4. Quarantining during a pregnancy presents obvious challenges, says the mother-to-be. But the couple has also discovered many benefits in the process.
“The No. 1 thing that has increased with the drivers — and I’m sure with the passengers as well — is stress,” says Diane Allen, who has worked as a city bus operator in Asheville for 14 years.
“People are so friendly right now, it’s unbelievable,” says Tim Orson, local mail carrier. Along with expressing their gratitude for his services, Orson says residents have offered him hand sanitizer. “I’ve got so much stockpiled in my front windshield right now.”
A group of locals called for N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper to lift restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 on May 3 in Asheville.
Yulon Ferguson has been sheltering at the Harrahs Cherokee Center – Asheville since it opened on April 8. “I am a worrier, but I’m trying not to be anxious and not worry,” he says.
“Anybody that follows the economy or follows the news will tell you that there’s a big elephant in the room that we can’t measure, and we’re all thinking about it, and it’s going to affect your planning,” Tom Tveidt, president of SYNEVA Economics, told Council members at their March 13 annual retreat. “That being said, I think there will be a pre-coronavirus economy and a post-coronavirus economy.”
Buncombe County’s revised emergency declaration restricts gatherings to 10 people or less, a stronger mandate than the current statewide prohibition of gatherings of over 100 people. The mandate also requires gyms, fitness centers and exercise facilities, indoor pools, spas, movie theaters, live performance venues and arcades to close until further notice.
Buncombe County has opened two drive-through testing sites, which will be open Wednesday, March 18, from 2-6 p.m. The first site is Biltmore Church at 35 Clayton Road in Arden, and the second is UNC Asheville at One University Heights.
The effects of the public school closure and a mandatory statewide ban on gatherings of 100 or more people are rippling through the community. And the county health department confirmed that an individual with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, visited Buncombe County March 10-13.
Sixth time’s a charm? Asheville City Council approved new affordability conditions for the RAD Lofts mixed-used development slated for the city’s River Arts District, the latest in a string of conditional zoning amendments approved by Council since 2013.