Staples sign comes down

Workers armed with cordless drills and a boom Tuesday afternoon took down the massive white letters of the Merrimon Avenue Staples store sign, the latest chapter in a years-long battle between city residents and Asheville City Council over the city’s enforcement and interpretation of its Unified Development Ordinance.

The city, which initially approved the sign three years ago, based its decision on the idea that the ordinance’s size limitations only applied to the letters, not to the background of the signs, as opponents contended. After much debate, Mayor Terry Bellamy traveled to Staples’ headquarters in Framingham, Mass., last September and brokered what she hailed as a compromise. Staples offered up its proposed design changes during a Jan. 28 press conference.

The city and Staples announced that the signs on the Merrimon Avenue and Interstate 240 sides of the building would be reduced by about 45 percent, and that column rockwork on the building’s corners would be added to soften its appearance. The company also said the lower portion of the building would be outfitted with a metal lattice to allow vines to grow up the sides.

The changes will cost between $75,000 and $100,000.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the sign work.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor


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50 thoughts on “Staples sign comes down

  1. Ah, well. I didn’t mind the sign, but I can’t muster much outrage over this latest government fiasco. Might I suggest that the UDO be revistited, and made 1) easier to understand, and 2) shorter?

  2. looks a lot worse now

    and I agree big time with Johnny about the UDO … way too long, bloated, convoluted, prone to misinterpretation…

    but I suspect no one in city government has the guts to put out a simple, understandable document. It would mean having to take a stand and one group or the other would lynch them.

  3. just to be fair in my opinion, we ate at 51 Grill, right next door to Staples this evening. Great food as always.

    Anyway — from the viewpoint of a graphic designer, which I have been for 30 years — I essayed an objective look at the changes so far.

    Awful! With the smaller sign it’s going to be horribly out of balance. Why can’t folks just mind their own danged business and let Staples, well, sell staples?

  4. Cheshire

    I wonder how much the vines will play into the equation. Might look nicer with ’em, hard to say.

  5. Nick S

    Jim Kunstler calls that kind of cosmetic frippery “nature band-aids”: the idea that you can offset an ugly building with a tree or a grass verge or, in this case, a trellis.

    Everyone already knows what that bare facade needs: windows and architectural ornamentation. That might suggest that it’s fit for humans.

  6. You could start a thread on this website about dogs pooping on the sidewalk and Ralph would come and take the dog’s side just to make people mad.

    That’s why I kinda like Ralph.

  7. Nick, many buildings in Asheville are far uglier. I can live with Staples and they have the best price in town on legal-size paper, which we use a lot of.

  8. oh… also, Nick … Staples’ building does not need a lot of “windows and architectural ornamentation.” What is needs is a huge selection of office supplies and equipment at a good price. THAT is its function. I, for one, do not want to pay extra for facade. Function and efficiency should always trump needless fluffery and foofaw.

  9. William P Miller

    Finally the sign comes down. The UDO was violated from the getgo by development friendly “we want the tax revenue” city officials and planners. About time a semi-correction occurred. The real fix would be to move the building over to the city planner’s neighborhood.

  10. Johnny Lemuria

    Did it violate it though? I thought the whole problem was that it followed the letter, if not the spirit of the regulation.


    Let’s give City Hall to Staples!!!!

    They will then have a beautiful nationally recognized art deco building no one can complain about and be very convenient to all the folks who will be living in Parkside and needed office supplies.

    Problem solved. Let’s move on.

    (well, not quite, where will be put city council?… hmmm, city dump? … no, no… can’t contaminate our non-recyclable waste… that won’t work … anyone have a suggestion?)

  12. nuvue

    Hey Ralph, How about putting the council out in Alexander? They could be alongside the Boston group city planners…I know you are fond of them
    I do wish I could read and understand the UDO, how many lawyers did we pay for that document???? It seems for every statement, there is a loophole somewhere to circumvent it.
    I couldn’t get through it, although I tried.
    How about a condensed version for the layman?

  13. Nuvue, I’ve said all along the UDO ain’t worth a pail of warm spit. ;-)

    Say, that’s not a bad idea on the city council. I still have several barns on the farm here, one of which is not in use. Each councilperson could have his or her own stall. Of course — since we’re outside the city limits, county commissioners have priority.

  14. tatuaje

    Ralph, I’m actually a bit surprised that you’re such a big supporter of Staples…. I thought you, of all people, would be against box stores…You are aware of what these chains do to small, independent entrepreneurs, as well as towns themselves, right? Where’s the Ralph I know and love that hates yankee intruders?!?!?

  15. Tatuaje, I love how everyone seems to think they know me.

    I LOVE Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy — they have what I need at a good price.

    As to Wallymart and the others, yes they outcompete small merchants — been there, got outcompted, went into another business they can’t touch.

    Instead of COMPLAINING about the problem, find a solution.

  16. Also, tatuaje, there is a big difference between being against something on an asthetic or even philosophical level, and wanting to use government against it. Some things are just unethical.

  17. ohforshame

    I for one am glad Staples is taking these steps – and the rock face added to the sign board sounds like it will mute the bright red if I’m picturing it right. I don’t like that the Staples building is as big as it is and obstructs visibility in turn lanes, which these surface mods aren’t going to address. Still, I’m glad they’re making an effort now, finally, to tone it down. Not everyone agrees with the few voices here that these are unimportant modifications.

  18. david


    Although I agree with the spirit of your point, the specifics of this instance are that government was not enforcing pre-existing rules. I do think the public should make sure their elected officials uphold existing laws. Staples wasn’t supposed to make their sign that big. And they did. they should be forced to compensate the city for all expenses incurred in making them follow the rules.

    Tatuaje- Ralph is only ‘against’ things if it makes others persnickity. If ashevillians were, over-all, vocal about having a Staples downtown, with an illegal sign, then, be assured, Ralph would then be for it.

    Ralph-You complain more than anyone I know of on this board,. You complain about young people, Jane Fonda, people from ‘away’, people with different political perspectives, people who dont like the meat industry… “Instead of COMPLAINING about the problem, find a solution”.

    I think the solution here was making the city enforce it’s rules. Next, maybe they can make Greenlife follow the rules. You wont defend Greenlife, too, will you? Somehow, I find it hard to believe you are in favor of over-priced food.

  19. Ezekiel

    And to think there’s an empty car dealership two blocks away that could have housed Staples, with easier access and egress than the current ugly building, if only this corporation headquartered 3000 miles away cared one iota about the aesthetics of the communities into which it expands.

  20. Ezekiel, Staples is in the business of selling office supplies, not assuaging the feelings of 10 or 15 people who think their store looks ugly.

  21. William P Miller

    Ralph, it is more like 10 or 15 thousand, at the least, who do not approve of the LOCATION of the Staples. To plop down such a building next to an old residential area was very poorly thought out. A store like that belongs out on east Tunnel Road, way out. It was allowed to be built despite the fact it violated UDO, for good reason it violated UDO, for the reasons I stated above. Tax revenue. Whoever is the useful idiot in City Planning should be replaced, pronto.

  22. Mr. Miller, that puts the resources of staples, which are considerable, out of the convenient reach of all those people who live in that residential area without a car. Like, for example, my brother. If staples wasn’t downtown, that would be yet another reason I’d have to schelp my brother down tunnel road. Let’s not go there.

  23. William, cities are commercial centers … for many centuries, stores have been built in cities. I see no reason to change that now.

    Did the citizens of Babylon complain because the grain merchant built a larger than normal storehouse? Probably but the Babylon city council said it was okay and should have been the end of that.

    UDOs (judging by empirical data) have not seemed to have mattered throughout civilized history.

  24. david


    I thought the rule of law was sacred in your book. Staples violated the UDO. Lots of citizens (far more than 10 or 15) have lobbied to have the city enforce its own rules.

    So, why do you think the rules should not apply in this case? Or is it silly of me to think your values are based in fact and consistency?

  25. William P Miller

    Ralph, I know you love Asheville, as I do. Let us preserve the character of this special city, whenever possible. As a libertarian, ordinarily loathe to government intervention in such things, I do support UDO and smart development. Sticking a big box store with bright colors, big signs, and right up against the sidewalk, is flat out wrong. The city employees should have denied the permit to build right off the bat. That area has traditionally been a residential neighborhood.

    Would you apply your knowledge to your backyard? What if a decree proclaimed that rural areas should not be neglected in the over-development of WNC. How about a cement plant right next to your barn?

    I am in favor of smart, careful development. To do it any other way risks ruining our wonderful ambience. Asheville’s refusal to accept “urban renewal” taxpayer money in the 1970s proved to be a very wise decision, but the character of the town has remained in tact…in the main. However, Parkside and the Ellington threaten the beauty and character of downtown Asheville. Let’s put a stop to the over-development of Asheville.

    Add Johnny: this is not a northeastern urban area. This is Asheville. If you want walk-everywhere big city life, move back up there. We drive here.

  26. I’m from Alabama, Mr. Miller. I did live in a tiny little town in Pennsylvania for a few years, but I have never lived in a “big city”. And this is a city, not a museum.

  27. William P Miller

    Johnny, this is a special city. Not the run of the mill dumps that serve as cities in Pennsylvania. Can anyone say Philadelphia? The northeastern cities are perfect examples of WHAT NOT TO DO here in Asheville. They have served their purpose by serving as bad examples, by pointing out how insane liberalism and slip-shod growth ruins a city.

    Asheville is a beautiful city kept this way by resisting northern influence and their attempts at social engineering. I want it to remain so. If anyone wants something else, let them move to an area that already resembles what they prefer. Not here.

  28. Miller, you’re the one who evidently wants to run Asheville like its Berkley, CA. Who the hell are you to tell a property owner what to do with their property? Who the hell are you to bemoan “social engineering” from one side of your mouth, while touting the obscene mockery of “smart, careful development” from the other? You are in no position to demand anything of me, sir.

  29. William P Miller

    Who are you as a transplant to try to change MY hometown, Johnny? Hum? Go back to Pennsyneckvania. They have plenty of social engineering there.

    Northeastern yankeeism has ruined it’s own area and it’s enablers are moving here in droves. Yet they want to tell us how we should do things here? When we have kept our Southern communities in tact? The yankee transplants are the ones who need to sit at our knee, learn how we do things here in the South, then go back home and fix what liberal socialism has ruined.

  30. Sigh. For the reading impaired, I shall repeat myself. I was born in Alabama. I went to college in Alabama. I lived in Pennsylvania enough to develop a taste for perogies, but I am a Southerner. I am not a child, but you are a caricature.
    You are the one arguing for government control over private property. You are the one arguing for social conformity enforced with sanction and exile. You are the one exhibiting signs of xenophobia and paranoia.
    Are these Southern values? I don’t think so.

  31. William P Miller

    Johnny, you go to extremes to separate our arguments don’t you. Zenophobia? I think not. I don’t mind if yankees move here. I just don’t like it when they want to change us to resemble to crapholes they moved from. This is a common snetiment here all over the South, Alabama too. perhaps you should look at yourself and investigate why you afre in alignment with the yankee transplants, and not fellow Southerners…if in fact you are really from Alabama.

    Keep Asheville’s character. Those who do not like it, MOVE! -:)

  32. david

    “if in fact you are really from Alabama.”

    More of that great, multi-cultural debate that the MX moderators just love to enforce. It’s hard to imagine what a thread might be like that only had posts from individuals engaging in informative debate, instead of childish name-calling.

    of course, this post will most likely be moderated…

    “ reserves the right to remove any user-generated content for any reason. This includes, but is not limited to, postings of libelous, defamatory or personally hostile nature. Users who post messages of this nature are subject to having their accounts suspended or terminated without notice.”


  33. William P Miller

    Dream on Mr david. -:) I know you do not like competing points of view, so you lean way left to imagine I, and others, are breaking the rules. Dude, this is America. We are all entitled to say our peace, within reason…no yelling fire in a theater. Conservative views are much more in alignment with traditional NC mountain values than your NE big city views. Hey, you are here. Soak in the Southern culture and don’t rely on knee-jerk yankee conditioning. You just may find you do like our culture here. We at least will smile and say good morning to you. You won’t find that happening up north very often.

  34. david, if one considers he might be a surly person or even just APPEAR to be a surly person, he might consider lightening up a tad mite, as we say up here in the hills. This is a place for free discussion.

    It must be free.

    MountainX cannot not afford my rates.

    Besides — of all the people you might try to offend — Johnny Lemuria is the last I would choose. I know him personally. He wit is rapier like, flicking in and out before you even realize you’ve been skewered. In physique, he scares even professional wrestlers who, instead, seek easier prey such as rabid mountain lions or entire Panzer divisions.

  35. By the way, in case you need confirmation of the above statement, I have met Johnny numerous times and at no time have I ever seen a professional wrestler in the same room with him. That is proof enough for me.

  36. and, yes, we still detest Jane Fonda and hereby challenge her to a mud wrestling contest vs. Johnny Lemuria, which I will film and sell for big bucks.

  37. Ralph, I reluctantly agree to uphold the honor of Asheville and participate in this contest. Especially if she’s wearing her Barbarella outfit.
    And I think David was defending me, not attacking me. And I appreciate it, but I don’t think I need it. Reviewing “Mr. Miller’s” comments, I’m forced to conclude that he’s a troll. Any persona that comically childish, paranoid, and emotionally immature must be fictional. I suspect he’s actually from Maine. Good job, “Mr. Miller”!

  38. Hmmm… Johnny if he was defending you it was not enthusiastic… reminds me of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “Lukewarm acceptance is more bewildering than outright rejection.”

    and, yes, as already stated on the board, the ONE THING I liked about Jane Fonda was her Barbarella outfit (or lack thereof).

  39. William P Miller

    LOL, Johnny, I am quite real and born and raised here in WNC. To label my comments as paranoid and childish is quite a stretch. Methinks you are unwittingly describing yourself here. But keep on keeping on! You are very entertaining.

    Jane Fonda nude wrestling in the mud. Now that would be a sight.

  40. William P Miller

    I agree. Johnny would be clothed and Ms Fonda would be nude. That would make a card!

  41. Jason Ross Martin

    As a formerly accused sign myself, I’d have to say I feel a certain loss of kindred, now that the STAPLES sign has been cropped a bit.

    Makes me feel like I need to go on a diet.

    My old chicken suit is a little tight these days….

    Oh, and yes… as a 6 year resident of Merrmon Avenue (not just as the chicken, but as a renter and taxpayer) I am thankful that STAPLES is on this side of town. It saves me a lot of money from going to Kinko’s to make flyers.

    Now if KINKO’s was smart, they’d get that car dealership over there with the furniture place for sale. Or maybe Houser Shoes building? Or maybe one of any number of vacant store fronts on this side of town that have been decimated in this $5 gas-reaction economy here…

  42. William P Miller

    Well Ross, Picnics looks good on Merrimon Ave because it is one story and fits in with the surrounding buildings. Staples does not. Staples belongs out at the Walmart Super Center or out on Tunnel Road. It fits there. For those who bought older houses and made them into business locations, tough. Drive to where I mentioned above.

    Keep Asheville looking like Asheville!

  43. how, ralph, can you make the assumption that i am insulting johnny? Oh, i see, you are jumping to conclusions without actually READING the post. huh. interesting.

    “Besides—of all the people you might try to offend—Johnny Lemuria is the last I would choose. I know him personally. He wit is rapier like, flicking in and out before you even realize you’ve been skewered.”

    In fact, i was calling out your buddy ‘william’ who made the assumption, even after being corrected, that johnny is from ‘the north.’

    way to assume, though.

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