Asheville Neighborhood Congress 3.0

From Montford to Sunset Drive to Oakley, Asheville’s neighborhoods each have their own distinctive feel. But, says Mariana Bailey, co-president of the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods, they also have similar desires. The search for those fundamentals—and the methods to achieve them—are at the core of the annual CAN Neighborhood Congress.

Since the first one three years ago, the meetings have exposed common objectives most neighborhoods would like to see realized: safety, meeting places, inclusiveness etc.

“There really was a good similarity,” Bailey says of previous congresses. “They just said it in a lot of different ways.”

This year’s congress is intended to move forward from “What do we want” into “How do we do it?” she says.

Though some of Asheville’s neighborhoods have been around for years, others are just forming, and Bailey notes that, in both cases, design helps dictate community. “How neighborhoods are designed determines how people relate to each other,” she says.

To that end, the group, which is often at the center of high-profile planning-and-development discussions in Asheville, has invited Mitchell Silver, Raleigh’s director of city planning and urban design, to be this year’s keynote speaker. Silver is currently helping Raleigh through a comprehensive plan for 2030.

As she has at past CAN events, Mayor Terry Bellamy will give an address, and the city’s new Planning and Development Director Judy Daniel will also make an appearance.

CAN’s presence in the community is hard to underestimate. The group recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and has often been responsible for keeping city government’s feet to the fire on controversies like the Greenlife/Maxwell Street dispute and the Staples design issues. In response to CAN’s efforts, the city even created a new staff position, that of neighborhood coordinator, to act as a liaison between the group, the city and Asheville at large.

The whole plan, Bailey says, is to get some control over how Asheville will look in the next century.

“Asheville is going to grow,” she says. “But how do we want it to grow?”

The third annual CAN Congress will meet at Jubilee! (46 Wall St.) on Saturday, Oct. 4, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. To register, e-mail mlewis6956@charter.net or call 252-3684. A $5 fee includes coffee and snacks.

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