City unveils final Downtown Master plan

After months of debate and $170,000 in taxpayer money, the city of Asheville on Thursday unveiled the final version of the Downtown Master Plan, intended to shape the future direction of downtown economically, culturally and architecturally.

The plan would aim to focus certain types of development in certain areas, streamline the development approval process, increase mass transit and foster better planned economic development, among other goals.

Under the plan, the city would implement a comprehensive set of design guidelines, reduce City Council’s authority over development projects to create a more “predictable” approval process and eventually turn much of the day-to-day management of downtown over to the “Community Improvement District” or CID.

That last proposal has attracted some controversy, with some community activists attacking it as taking many important decisions out of the hands of the community. The CID would do everything from coordinate the hours retail businesses are open to buying and selling property to installing police cameras around downtown.

The plan now notes that the CID’s structure would be drafted by an ad-hoc “pursuit group” made up of “downtown’s diverse constituencies, including members of the Downtown Commission, Asheville Downtown Association, Downtown Asheville Residential Neighbors, the Preservation Society, Council of Independent Business Owners, the Asheville Hub, arts agencies, property owners, major employers and major institutions.”

The master plan was developed by Massachusetts-based consulting firm Goody Clancy, with input from the Downtown Master Plan Advisory Committee and several public forums.

From here, the plan will go to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on April 1, to the Downtown Commission on April 3 and to the advisory committee during the week of April 6. It will go before Asheville City Council on May 12, but council is not expected to vote on the plan at that meeting, according to a release from the city.

The full release is below.

— David Forbes, staff writer

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Downtown Master Plan Released

The finalized Downtown Master Plan has been released and is available for viewing on the city’s website at www.ashevillenc.gov/downtownmasterplan.  The plan is the culmination of a planning process that included meetings with the public, city commissions and stakeholder groups.

The final plan will be reviewed by several groups including the Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, April 1; The Downtown Commission on Friday, April 3; and The Downtown Master Plan Advisory Committee will discuss the plan the week of April 6.

On Tuesday, May 12, the plan will be presented to Asheville City Council. The consultants will provide detailed information to and answer questions from the Council. Due to the complex nature of the plan, it is not expected that Council will take action during the formal meeting on May 12th.  Public comment and discussion regarding specifics of the plan will take place prior to adoption and at a future Council meeting, yet to be determined. 

For more information on the Downtown Master Plan process, email Sasha Vrtunski at svrtunski@ashevillenc.gov or call Ms. Vrtunski at 828-232-4599
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25 thoughts on “City unveils final Downtown Master plan

  1. Marc McIntosh

    So are we supposed to ask for some of the bale out money before or after we sink our community into a major tax dept. Not to mention a life time commitment and expences to maintain this project. Don’t be and Idiot!

  2. Jake

    “Under the plan, the city would implement a comprehensive set of design guidelines, reduce City Council’s authority over development projects to create a more “predictable” approval process and eventually turn much of the day-to-day management of downtown over to the “Community Improvement District” or CID.”

    In theory, this could work. But we don’t live in theory, we live in Asheville, and this will not work here.

    If the Council decides to hand over the downtown development reigns to an unelected group of insiders — and that is what this article reports is going to happen — then we do not need those members of the Council. I look forward to actively contesting the re-elction of any councilmember who decides he or she is too busy to decide downtown development issues.

  3. hauntedheadnc

    I would look forward to every downtown development not hanging on whether or not the councilmembers stepped in dog poo on the way over to the City Building, which, you know, would just totally ruin their mood and make them much less inclined to support a sensible urban project.

    Basically, the way things are now, you can count on every urban project getting shouted down by a large and very vocal group of “Village People” — no, not gay men in silly outfits singing badly but rather that group of people who fail to realize that they live in an urban region of almost 400,000 people and not some small village — while the worst projects sail right through. This is why we ended up with monstrosities like 21 Battery Park, which is nice and squat and ugly and expensive, while projects like Tony Fraga’s Italianate shopping arcade, Art Deco shopping arcade, Italianate hotel tower, and modern condo tower get the axe.

    I for one and sick of it. I would like to see the city set a course for urbanism rather than making the approval process a relentless grinding pain in the ass, and thus chasing all the development we could be getting out into the county.

    Face it. Because of the Sullivan Acts, whenever a developer comes calling and wanting a water hookup for his latest pustule of suburban sprawl in the county, Asheville is required by law to put on lingerie and cheap jewelry and purr that yes, in fact, it does like to be spanked. This being the case, what the city should be doing is everything in its power to get developers to build in town where new residents will help the city coffers and where — if dense urban projects are allowed — they’ll be downtown walking around and spending their money rather than driving in from the county and clogging up the roads.

    And to get urbanism in Asheville, we need a more sensible approval process. This plan delivers. It also delivers. It takes the randomness out of approval and no longer will a project live or die by the city council’s whim — if it meets the guidelines, it passes. It protects some parts of downtown from big, scary, evil urbanism, which ought to make the Village People happy. It also opens up some other areas of downtown to the urban projects we should be courting rather than demand that every building be short and expensive. This makes people like myself happy.

    And so, I’m happy with the plan.

  4. hauntedheadnc

    Well, bugger all. That’s two typos and/or redundancies in that post. Wish I could edit that out, but I ought to win a cookie at least for catching them in the reread… after posting, so it shouldn’t be a very good cookie.

  5. Jake

    “Basically, the way things are now, you can count on every urban project getting shouted down by a large and very vocal group of ‘Village People’—no, not gay men in silly outfits singing badly but rather that group of people who fail to realize that they live in an urban region of almost 400,000 people and not some small village…”

    Uh, where do you live? If it is anywhere around here, it is not an “urban region.” There aren’t even 250,000 in the county. You may wish it to be an urban region one day, but it is NOT that way today. Believe me when I tell you, it is one of our attractive features? Don’t believe me? Ask our visitors from true urban regions, and they’ll tell you.

    And please, please point out the projects that have been scuttled by your Village People, because I think you are totally full of it on that one.

    I agree that, in order to avoid discouraging development, Asheville needs clear guidelines that do not change depending on how the wind is blowing. Alas, those guidelines are not to be found in the proposed Master Plan. Instead, the proposal is that the unelected members of the Planning & Zoning Commission and a new Community Improvement District will make the decisions. And to that, I say NO WAY!

  6. John

    He has made that statement before, Jake. I don’t know why huntedhednc thinks he loves in charlotte. Nearly half a million people???????????? Maybe if oyu count every single person in WNC.

  7. hauntedheadnc

    “Uh, where do you live? If it is anywhere around here, it is not an “urban region.” There aren’t even 250,000 in the county. You may wish it to be an urban region one day, but it is NOT that way today. Believe me when I tell you, it is one of our attractive features? Don’t believe me? Ask our visitors from true urban regions, and they’ll tell you.”

    You mean to tell me that Asheville is NOT the primary city of this part of the state? The population of the Asheville metro area, by which I mean the population of the area within which people can conveniently commute to Asheville, is 408,436 as of July of last year. Don’t like the facts? Take them up with the census bureau.

    As for whether or not our urbanity is one of our most attractive features, I’d say it is. If people just wanted mountains, they could go to Canton and yet, mysteriously, they don’t. Why ever could that be…? It sure is a puzzler! Surely they’re not coming to Asheville for the arts and performing arts, the architecture, the shopping and dining, and all of that nonsense. Surely not.

    And what I’d ask of our visitors from truly urban regions is why they keep moving here and then complaining about the growth. I automatically disregard the complaints of hypocrites.

    “And please, please point out the projects that have been scuttled by your Village People, because I think you are totally full of it on that one.”

    Haywood Park Towers. How’s that one for you? I think it’s a start, but I could type pages about others that are coming to mind, including all that whining going on about a freakin’ museum opening in Montford. Any other city would be delighted to have such a museum open its doors, but here in the bizarro world that is Asheville, we all know that a building, any building, is a tool of Satan and is thus to be shunned. Whatever was there before, be it a forest glade or a shattered parking lot, was better. Frankly, it makes me wonder what the locals thought when Montford was growing up around them, and all the trees between it and the river got clear cut so the fancy people in their new houses could have a view of Mt. Pisgah.

    But there I go rambling. Back on topic…

    “I agree that, in order to avoid discouraging development, Asheville needs clear guidelines that do not change depending on how the wind is blowing. Alas, those guidelines are not to be found in the proposed Master Plan. Instead, the proposal is that the unelected members of the Planning & Zoning Commission and a new Community Improvement District will make the decisions. And to that, I say NO WAY!”

    Is there anything that would delight you more than to discourage growth? The problem is though, that you’re not. When the wailing starts downtown, the developers just go build crap out in the county and while we preserve our sacrosanct mountain views from downtown, now we get to watch rich people’s houses crawling up their sides. Some bloody victory there, I tell you.

    Why should every last project come before the City Council? Their job is to keep the city running, and stop the things that will jam the gears. Their job is not to serve as your personal anti-growth crusaders/aesthetic consultants/leasing agents/etc. I see that this plan creates a solid net of sensible guidelines based on the best compromise. There are architectural guidelines that guarantee something other than bland boxes. Some areas of downtown will stay short, and others can grow tall if the demand is there. And it takes the guesswork out of it. How is the City Council feeling today? Did they all get their nappies changed? Did anyone make fun of them at school today? Did someone tell them they couldn’t go the meeting until they ate all their icky asparagus and because of that they’re in such a bad mood that they’re not going to approve anything a developer might set before them?

    I’m tired of this city’s progress resting on what kind of mood a small group of officials is in at the moment.

    All you really need to do if you’re so concerned about the CID is make sure that it contains a balanced makeup of people with common sense, Village People, and rape-and-pillage developers. Get a good cross section of people involved and then it won’t look like the circus is in town, what from all the hysterics, whenever a major project is proposed.

  8. hauntedheadnc

    I sorry. Will use terse words, short sentences in future.

  9. Jake

    “‘And please, please point out the projects that have been scuttled by your Village People, because I think you are totally full of it on that one.’

    “Haywood Park Towers. How’s that one for you?”

    Oh? And since when is the Downtown Commission your Village People? The rabble you scorn didn’t even NEED to fight that one, in case you weren’t paying attention. If that’s the best you can do, you have no argument.

    Come on, give us your pages of examples of projects done in by the Village People. You haven’t given us a single good example yet, and I still think you’re full of it.

    And BTW, the gripe about the new facility in Montford is not with its development, but the careless, insensitive manner in which the site was clearcut. But then such facts are inconvenient to your point of view, aren’t they?

    Finally, you asked “Why should every last project come before the City Council?”

    Very, very few projects go before the City Council, even big ones like The Indigo. The Master Plan proposal seems intended to drive that number to zero, and THAT is a problem. Any elected official who supports such an approach to governance should not, and I believe will not, remain in office for long.

  10. hauntedheadnc

    The Downtown Commission approved the Haywood Park Towers plan, if you’ll recall. I was there when they did it. If you think I’m full of it, I think you can’t get your facts straight.

  11. ashkat

    I will actively contest the re-elction of any council member who votes to give the power to make decisions that affect the design and future of downtown to an unelected committee.

    I live in a beautiful home in walking distance to downtown and most of my needs thanks to caring decisions by City Council.

    o City Council waived property depth
    requirements to allow this 97-yr-old home
    to remain in place.

    o City Council approved a grant to help
    renovate the house, which had fallen into
    disrepair.

    o City Council approved a waiver to divide this
    home into a duplex so low income people could
    live with beauty, comfort, and convenience.

    An unelected downtown management committee is ok for maintenance activities like trash collection and street cleaning.

  12. hauntedheadnc

    That’s perfectly within your rights, ashkat, and I agree that large scale decisions affecting entire districts and neighborhoods are some of the decisions we elect the government to make.

    However, approval of individual projects can be handled by an established net of rules and regulations, provided that the body charged with enforcing those rules is made up of a diverse enough group of people.

    I certainly do not want the CID to only be made up of the likes of Stuart Coleman, about whom I have many vile and slanderous things to say. I don’t want the CID to be made up entirely of militant NIMBY’s either, though.

    Basically, I see that this plan is a good compromise and that nobody is going to be entirely happy with it. It’s good enough to live with, though, and the job of the city council should be to approve the plan and take a lot of the insanity out of getting anything done in this town. Their next job should be to make sure that the right people, and enough people with different viewpoints get appointed to the CID board.

  13. Piffy!

    Nobody in Montford has made any complaint against the “outdoor Adventure” or whatever it is called, hunty. The complain being echoes by many RESIDENTS of that neighborhood is that the developers LIED about how they would develop the land. But, of course, you are intentionally muddying the issue to make your own point, as usual. Do you really think anyone takes you seriously with such massive holes in your arguments?

  14. hauntedheadnc

    Nobody complain about building in Montford? How come I read angry posts call it “progress,” not progress? I read posts complain about cut trees, say trees better, say evil developers cut every tree in Montford.

    Was that short and terse enough for you, by the way? I’d just hate to ramble.

  15. hauntedheadnc

    Ah, screw it. I can’t keep up the baby talk for PF-whatever.

    Here’s the deal. The very first thing I heard on various discussion forums about the Health Adventure expansion in Montford was a great many complaints that the trees were coming down. The gist of these complaints, or so it seemed as I read them, was that the woods were better and should not have been touched. It didn’t seem to me that people were upset about how the land was being cleared. They seemed upset that it was being cleared at all, no matter the purpose. It only confirmed to me that complaining is one of Asheville’s prime pastimes, and that people here really will complain about any- and everything.

    Truth be told, someone could propose to transport the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its entire collection to Asheville, stone by stone, and you’d have an angry crowd furious that they were having to cut down trees in order to site the thing.

    Woods are wonderful. I’ll be the first to admit it, but I also admit that sometimes you can replace a grove with something even nicer and to my mind a children’s museum is nicer. I think real growth is all about mixing nature in with the buildings and urban growth patterns, but that buildings do have their place. This puts me out of step with what seem to be the majority of Ashevillians who never met a building they liked — except of course for the one they personally moved into and to which they return after a long hard day of complaining about other people moving here.

    Like I said — it seemed to me that people were more upset that the land was being developed at all, and not just upset about the way it was being developed.

  16. Piffy!

    Again, you intentional misrepresent the situation.

    The residents complaints were that they were told certain restraints would be in place, and they were not. The complaints by RESIDENTS (not random people on the blogs who may or may not live there) was not against the development out of hand, it was that the developers lied.

    But dont let me disrupt your little diatribe about Village People and an asheville with nearly half a million people with silly facts.

  17. ashkat

    If you are typical of what CID supporters want, you are strengthening my opposition to an unelected decision maker.

    Have you personally visited the scene? I came upon it unexpectedly and was stunned — it’s a huge clearcut that goes right up to the street across from family homes. Now I think the Montford complaints were gentle considering the scope. They trusted Health Adventure to honor their promise to keep a screen of trees and were sadly disappointed.

  18. bobaloo

    This cost 170,000 bucks. Gosh, I wonder why Asheville’s budget is in such trouble.

  19. hauntedheadnc

    I’m intentionally misrepresenting facts, PF-whatever? Me? I’m just giving you my impression of the situation based on what I’ve read and heard. It does not seem to me that they’re complaining about more trees being removed than were promised — it seems to me they’re complaining that any were removed at all, and they’d complain no matter what they’re being removed for, no matter the benefit to the community or the neighborhood.

    What concerns me, if you want to know the truth, is your refusal to accept some facts here. Do you think I pulled Asheville’s population figures out of the air? The Asheville metro area consists of Buncombe, Madison, Henderson, and Hawyood counties. Those are the counties that provide Asheville with its population of shoppers and workers, meaning Asheville is the primary city for people who inhabit those counties. In many cases, Asheville is linked to those counties by suburban sprawl. There’s hardly any undeveloped land left between Asheville and Hendersonville, for example.

    Meaning of course, that Asheville is not the tiny town you wish it was. Like it or not, it’s the central city for a sizable area, much of which is developed, some of which is not, and a lot of which is contiguous to the city itself.

  20. hauntedheadnc

    Ashkat, what I am is probably your worst nightmare. I’m a pro-growth liberal. This means that I don’t fit in the nice little cubbyhole you’d like to place me in, and the disparity is probably going to leave you hunched in a corner, gnawing at your fingertips once you’ve been driven mad by the notion that someone can support growth and not be a mountaintop-removing developer who believes that humans were not just given dominion over the earth, but were given a direct order to twist its titty until it shrieks “uncle.”

    In other words, I’m pro-growth and anti-sprawl. I support greenery and parks. I also support buildings and think they’re a rather nice part of this thing we call a “city.” I also acknowledge that I actually do live in the city of Asheville and not the village of Barnardsville or wherever. I’m tired of good projects being shouted to death while the worst sort of crap keeps getting built. I’m tired of 21 Battery Park going up when something like Haywood Park Towers gets the ax because it’s “too big” and “too urban.” I’m tired of the ludicrous complaints that come up every single time anyone wants to build anything downtown — including the complaints that new development will make downtown “too busy.” A “busy” downtown is sort of what you’re aiming for when you bring it back from the dead, I’d think.

    Basically, I’m tired of the sheer lunacy that comes into play with downtown development, and as I keep saying and as you keep ignoring, a CID is a great idea provided that its members represent a good cross-section of the community. If it was only made up of developers or only made up of people who think Asheville would be great if we could just get rid of all those damned buildings downtown, I wouldn’t support it either.

  21. hauntedheadnc

    PFKaP, I especially liked him in FF6. That little yellow slicker was the cutest thing… And that bit with Celes was so poignant.

    (If you get that reference, you are now my bestest friend whether you like it or not, no matter if you can’t stand me.)

  22. ironhead

    The plan will never be implemented. In Asheville, if you have enough money, you get to do whatever you want. Just like anywhere else in this country. Same as it ever was.

  23. us-ukrob

    Re: “In other words, I’m pro-growth and anti-sprawl. I support greenery and parks. I also support buildings and think they’re a rather nice part of this thing we call a “city.” I also acknowledge that I actually do live in the city of Asheville and not the village of Barnardsville or wherever. I’m tired of good projects being shouted to death while the worst sort of crap keeps getting built. I’m tired of 21 Battery Park going up when something like Haywood Park Towers gets the ax because it’s ‘too big’ and ‘too urban.'”

    Here, here! I agree.

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