You came, you saw, you collaborated. Consultants working on the downtown master plan are declaring a weekend of public input and discussion a huge success. From Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 2, several hundred people turned out to tell representatives from Goody Clancy, the firm hired to help create a master plan for downtown Asheville, how they want the city’s future to look.
The meetings were the latest in a series begun in early May to cull ideas from the public and boil them down into a workable plan for future development, transportation, facilities and the general atmosphere in downtown Asheville (see “Publi-city,” May 28 Xpress). A steering committee charged with keeping the public energized had been brainstorming ways to encourage as many people as possible to take part. And judging by the crowds, word did get out.
On Saturday alone, about 225 people showed up, reports city staffer Sasha Vrtunski, who’s coordinating the process.
“There certainly was quite a lot of pretty strong participation all around,” notes Ben Carlton of Goody Clancy.
Over the course of the weekend, which included 13 breakout sessions on Saturday, a number of themes began to emerge—such as green space, affordability, artists’ studios and the much-discussed performing-arts center.
But a big bonus for the process, says Tom Gallaher of Heritage Directions LLC, was the side-by-side collaboration of developers and nondevelopers. “We’re all in this together,” says Gallaher, a local subcontractor who’s working with the Massachusetts-based Goody Clancy. Recently, some developers have begun seeking community buy-in before proceeding with their projects—sometimes even before seeking permits. And with developers and concerned citizens sitting side by side during this process, says Gallaher, the downtown plan has a better chance of becoming something everyone can live with. “It’s a dance we all have to do together,” he observes.
Meanwhile, Goody Clancy is taking the information and opinions that came out of the weekend’s sessions and getting ready for the next public meeting: Thursday, June 12, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Asheville Civic Center. Planners will display what they’ve gleaned from the public input as they begin drafting the actual plan. A first take on it will be unveiled July 29, says Carlton.