Appreciating a local treasure: Two views of the Basilica of St. Lawrence

Photo by Derek Olson

As the city of Asheville considers how to redevelop sites in its busy and historic downtown, researchers at the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at UNCA are assisting officials with a tool that models design alternatives in an interactive, three-dimensional environment, according to a blog post on RENCI’s site.

A new RENCI-developed model of Haywood Street and the Civic Center/Basilica of St. Lawrence Plaza was unveiled at a meeting at the Asheville Design Center on Wednesday, March 17. The model uses geo-referenced data to create an accurate, 3D animation of a portion of Haywood Street that includes the Asheville Civic Center, the adjacent Basilica of St. Lawrence, and a parcel across the street that includes a small parking lot and an empty storefront.

RENCI’s 3D model looking south down Asheville’s Haywood Street with the Basilica of St. Lawrence (green domed roof) in the foreground.


The city wants to redevelop that parcel but is sensitive to how redevelopment could impact the 100-year-old brick and stone Basilica, which sits on high ground at the north end of the street, its impressive façade viewable for several blocks, says the RENCI site.

The new RENCI tool creates a geo-referenced model of Haywood Street’s buildings, sidewalks and the street—complete with landscaping and architectural details so that users can easily recognize the locations in the model. When completed, the model will use the Unity 3D video game engine to allow users to walk around and view details from different perspectives, much as they would in a video game.

“We used building blueprints to make the most accurate models possible and to flesh out the details like windows and streetscapes,” said Jeff Hicks, a geospatial analyst at RENCI at UNC Asheville. “Incorporating the game engine will add a new level of interactivity.”


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About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

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