Until about a month ago, the storefront space at 29 Haywood St. in downtown Asheville housed the city's Office of Economic Development, but it will soon have new tenants — including an Asheville Police Department substation.
The move results from a shuffle of city offices that began last September, when all support services for developers were shifted to the Public Works Building on South Charlotte Street. That opened up space on the fifth floor of City Hall, which proved to be a good location for the OED.
"We knew there would be some nice synergies," said Assistant City Manager Jeff Richardson. The city Planning and Development Department is on the same floor, he noted, making it easier for the two agencies to communicate about incoming projects.
Meanwhile, back in August, the APD created a new Downtown Unit to cover the central business district, reflecting both an increase in calls for service there and the desire to provide a reassuring presence for downtown visitors and residents. The Haywood Street offices are a good fit for the unit, said Richardson, because they're more accessible and visible than the police headquarters on Pack Square.
"The department is excited about the opportunity to house downtown police services in the heart of the city," he said. Business owners along that stretch of Haywood Street have maintained that the area is often populated by vagrants and has been on the APD's radar for illegal activity. In 2008, the city removed the benches outside Pack Memorial Library, a block north on Haywood Street, after business owners complained about suspected drug dealing and public intoxication there.
At press time, the APD had not returned calls seeking comment on the shift, but Richardson believes the substation will have a positive effect on the corridor. "It gives the appearance of a higher presence," he said. "I think it's going to be very well received."
The U.S. Small Business Administration and the Asheville Downtown Association (which was already in the building) will occupy the storefront offices, with the APD setting up shop in the rear, accessed through a door in the hallway that leads to the Rankin parking deck. Richardson said two new walls need to be installed before the police can move in; the work is expected to be completed this month.