On Aug. 27, the City Council voted to pay over a quarter of a million dollars to Nelson Byrd Woltz landscape architects to “create a concept plan for the redevelopment of city owned properties at Haywood Street and Page Avenue.” The listed scope is nebulous. However, Nelson Byrd Woltz’s website shows a list of projects — almost all are parks.
This space has so much more potential than being just a park. In fact, rather than being the Pit of Despair, it is an amazing Pit of Potential. This is the perfect place for the city to do something truly creative. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community to meet several of its goals with one carefully crafted development project.
The task force established to study what could be done with this space showed creativity with its report. One of the most exciting ideas was to create a mixed-use space, including affordable housing. This recommendation encapsulated many of the ideas people had written on little sticky notes during one public exercise to help find out what people wanted done to this site.
In addition to affordable housing, there can be affordable office space — for the small businesses that are losing their workplaces because of the conversion of the Flatiron Building into a boutique hotel. And yes, there would still be room for a nice park, with part of it serving as a green roof over what is now a concrete pit, which could house the new office space.
Before it’s too late, let’s look at the full potential of this space. Let’s see if we can work with the Basilica of St. Lawrence to find a way to have a beautiful landscape park in front of the basilica, instead of an asphalt parking lot. Let’s see if The North Carolina Arboretum and the Botanical Gardens at Asheville can help make the park an environmental learning center. Keep thinking “Pit of Potential” and let the creativity flow. That’s what makes Asheville an exciting city.
— Billie Lofland