Letter: Charlotte Street project will actually help Asheville

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Where were the cries for the preservation and restoration of the properties at 101 Charlotte St. prior to the proposed development? These buildings have been neglected into utter disrepair and for years have been an eyesore.

There are ample examples of this period of architecture that have been preserved. The neighborhood is replete with examples of homes that have been cared for and justify further preservation. For 101 Charlotte St., however, this is simply not the case.

Those trying to dam the current of progress are acting like petulant children. When told that a toy they never use is going to be donated, it is all of a sudden their favorite toy, and the greatest of tantrums ensue.

The proposal at 101 Charlotte St. will actually help some of Asheville’s most pressing problems: almost 200 residential units, including sanctioned affordable housing; retail stores to provide jobs; office space to provide alternative tax revenue to a city dependent on tourism; and who hasn’t had trouble finding parking (there are 400-plus off-street parking spaces in the development plans)?

Preservation at all costs is not the answer. It is even likely people protested the development of these big, rich-people, Craftsman homes in the early 1900s because it came at the expense of Asheville’s forests. Progress is inevitable; what a nice bonus that it can help our fair city. Just let the toy that you weren’t even playing with go.

— Derek Husar


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20 thoughts on “Letter: Charlotte Street project will actually help Asheville

  1. Mike R.

    The main opposition to 101 Charlotte St. is NOT loss of the existing houses. The main opposition is the wholly inappropriate size and scale of the project and the predictable negative impact it will have on Charlotte St and surrounding neighborhoods.
    Thoughtful development and tear down of these older houses…..yes. This development…NO.

    • LowerCrust

      Can’t agree with your characterization of the opposition to this project. The potential loss of the existing structures is precisely what has fueled the opposition of the Asheville Preservation Society, and they and various supporters have been the primary drivers and organizers in resisting the project. They’ve attempted to be more nuanced by speaking of potential use of some of the rest of the property, but saving the existing structures has been the cornerstone.

      • Mike R.

        You are correct that the preservation folks were the early, vocal opponents (and still are); however, a much larger/broader groups of folks against the overall size and scale and impact of this project now dominate.

  2. Fenix Babbins

    WELL SAID MIKE R. I agree completely. I would add, Charlotte street might have houses and other buildings where the land could be put to better use. And so in that same vein of thought, so do a lot of other streets. I passed by two significant places just yesterday right next to the Asheville Mall that were abandoned commercial properties – weeds grown up as high as the windows on one. And no one’s screaming about what should be done with those prominent EYE SORES! Charlotte street doesn’t have eye sores like that and the property these two abandoned buildings reside on is probably pretty big and that development put there – might have to buy up some acreage behind them but still. So this, for me, is the rub. Tearing down quaint houses on a charming historic street isn’t the answer. The answer is for these developers to move on and choose a piece of commercial property in Asheville- like what’s right down from the mall, next to Chilli’s – and put abandoned property there to good use – in an area already laden with shopping and right on the bus line too. Problem solved. But will that happen. Of course not. The developers would rather waste time, dig in their heels and make Asheville residence mad.

    • luther blissett

      “no one’s screaming about what should be done with those prominent EYE SORES!”

      They might not be screaming, but they are talking: those areas considered part of the “urban center” rezoning plan that the city is working through. The current property owners down by the mall aren’t selling (yet) and can’t be forced to sell, whereas the Killians are selling. There is a problem with vacant or undeveloped land in spaces that would benefit from development, but “why don’t developers build projects on acreage that isn’t theirs and isn’t for sale?” is not a serious argument.

    • Froscari

      This property is one block from I-40 and within a 5 minute walk of the central business district. This is exactly where high density housing should go. Charlotte St will survive if this is built, it’s hardly the paragon of beauty right now, although the road diet helped immensely. Once built, 101 Charlotte St will make the street and neighborhood even better,

      The adjacent neighborhoods are going to be ok, the neighbors should benefit and enjoy having nearby businesses to walk to. The people who say the buildings are too big or aren’t “appropriate” don’t know anything about architecture or urban design. The architects did an excellent job taking cues from the adjacent buildings and Asheville’s traditional historic brick architecture. Stop it with the “NOT Charlotte” jingoism. That doesn’t mean anything. Don’t be afraid of a 5 story building. It’s not a monster that’s going to devour you.

      And the folks who talk about the ensuing traffic “nightmare” remember this the next time you say you’re stuck IN traffic. You’re not IN traffic, you ARE traffic. No one deserves a traffic free car ride in a real city. You also have options. Walk, ride a bike, take the bus or go a different way or go at a different time. But to deny people places to live because you can’t be inconvenienced is pretty selfish. All you old retired folks in Grove Park, remember when you were young and lived in a small apartment somewhere? Stop being so selfish and open your minds that this development might be good for a a lot of people and is not the disaster that you think it is. And if it takes you a couple minutes more to drive to the gym to get on a treadmill, or to your meditation class, well, that’s just too bad. Not everything goes your way, even if that’s been the case for most of your pampered baby boomer life.

      The opponents need to realize that this city, and this country does not build enough housing and it’s a massive problem. Nationally, we need about 5 million units of new housing built a year and we’re building about 1.3 million units a year. Locally, the amount of new housing units that need to be built is staggering. And those new units need to be built in places like Charlotte St where there’s infrastructure in place, and not out in the county somewhere. Grow up, or grow out, that’s the choice. You can’t be against both sprawl and density.

      The Preservation Society is a great group of really well meaning people who do very good things in town, such as saving the Patton Parker house next door. But they’re just wrong on this one. Charlotte St doesn’t need to be “SAVED” it needs to grow, transform and become the next phase of what Asheville is becoming, which is a real city, with dense walkable neighborhoods and compact urban living. Their so called alternative plan is unrealistic to say the least. Their offer to “buy” the property is essentially meaningless. Some old worn out houses will be demolished. OK, fine, not every old building is worth saving. Trees will get cut down. Well, new trees can be planted. Were any trees cut down to build the houses the opponents of this project live in?

      Let the Killians and RCG build what this city really needs. It’s going to be fine. Really, it is. The neighborhood houses will still grow in value at a ridiculous rate. You’ll still be able to get to downtown or to I-240 in just a few minutes. You might even like it better than what’s there now. Relax, the sky is not falling.

  3. Curious

    If the developers/architect had designed the project in the style of the Manor Inn, a little further down the street, would the opposition had not been so fierce.?

    • luther blissett

      That’s a good question. Even something similar in profile and character to the City Bakery building — albeit on a larger scale — might have made the preservationists’ arguments seem especially flimsy. I’m not a fan of pastiche architecture that badly pretends to be from another era, but there’s a timelessness to brick construction in mixed-use commercial settings.

      The 101 Charlotte project has a lot of people arguing from slightly false pretenses. I don’t think the preservationists really believe that those shabby houses are historical structures or that renovating them is an appropriate solution, but that saying so would weaken their position down the road. I also don’t think the local urban architecture people really like the proposed building as much as they say they do, but that expressing any misgivings would give preservationists a veto on any kind of future development. The preservationists would prefer to defend nicer houses; the urbanist / architecture people would prefer to defend a nicer project. The Killians have chosen to help neither of them because they want to extract every last cent from their property.

      • Froscari

        Luther: you make some good points but look at the drawings again. The buildings are modern interpretations of historic urban brick architecture. You don’t know what the financial pro forma looks like or how much risk the Killians and RCG are taking. So your “extracting every last cent” comment is meaningless. If they wanted to do that they would have sold it to McDonald’s or some other national chain that could build by right under current zoning regulations a long time ago.

        • luther blissett

          It’s brick-ish. I take your point, but there’s something weird to my eyes about how the facade as depicted in the drawings seems disconnected from the building core, almost like they’ve put up a Hollywood backlot in front of it. I absolutely understand that modern office and residential space deserve more natural light than older buildings allow — and that modern building standards can accommodate that without issues with temperature — but there’s a lack of cohesion there. (I think it would cohere more by dividing those big wide windows into quadrants. As depicted, it’s kind of parking-deck-ish. ) I’m also not fond of how the ground-level retail is tucked under that facade.

          150 Coxe feels to me like a better execution in that mode. Again, it’s not on the same scale, but it doesn’t look out of place next to the old Chrysler Building.

          “If they wanted to do that they would have sold it to McDonald’s or some other national chain”

          Would the acreage be as valuable for a single-story building with surface-level access roads and parking? I’m happy to be educated here, but we have the Fuddruckers lot for comparison.

  4. Voices of Reason


    Asheville could certainly use more density in places with access to public transportation and bicycle lanes. The 400 Parking spaces proposed for this project are not in alignment with this idea. Have you ever tried to pull out onto Charlotte Street from Baird Street? If this is a real urban project, then parking should be removed entirely from the project. The developer could buy every city resident a bicycle, a helmet, and a decent pair of walking shoes with the savings of building the parking structure. If 400 cars are added to these two intersections it will be a nightmare.


    • Robert

      Yeah, it’s sort of like the argument my wife-to-be and I have. When I feel that we have too much stuff, I say, “Why don’t we get rid of some of this stuff.” And she says, “Let’s build a bigger house with more closets!”

      • Felix Babbins

        Extremely well said Robert. Hadn’t thought about it that way. And just like “Voices of Reason” pointed out we need density in places with access to public transportation. Not build apartment complexes, or even mixed us complexes, and build giant parking garages … if the new renters of the apartments there will be using public transportation. But then the new question arises, if this will be mixed use, as in stores being there, then wouldn’t we need parking – I know, an unsightly parking garage – for those driving there to shop. I just now thought of that myself.

        • luther blissett

          This is a legitimate problem; it’s resembles a chicken/egg problem but is more complex than that. It’s an externalities problem. And yes, the parking provision is a mess, but if it were reduced people would be parking on the side streets and the local residents would (reasonably) scream because car dependency is real and inescapable.

          Removing parking terrifies city governments. Asheville’s elected leaders lack the guts to remove a couple dozen on-street parking spots, let alone contemplate pedestrianizing parts of downtown. But that’s also because living car-free outside of a handful of cities in the US is either an indicator of poverty or of affluence. There is no middle. As affordability is driven out to the margins, often outside the city limits, then car dependency increases.

          (Tangentially: I would love to see a mini Ingles in a space the size of a convenience store. )

  5. Jason Williams

    These buildings have been neglected into utter disrepair and for years have been an eyesore

    It seems like the party guilty of neglecting these houses is the same party that wants to demolish them and build this new cash grab development.

  6. John

    Inarguably, there have many challenges in getting this right, and the consequences to getting it wrong was on vivid display during the May 5 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission on the conditional zoning request for the Charlotte Street-Chestnut Hills development project. Attorneys for the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County have sent a letter to City officials about the myriad problems associated with technical and process failures rampant during that meeting. That letter can be read here: Unfair Public Hearing Practices

  7. Robert

    It’s becoming abundantly clear from all the recent stumbling of Asheville City Council and the unlawful zoning amendments attempted by Woodfin Commissioners: our area needs a moratorium on all large developments until a comprehensive plan coordinating all municipalities can be properly studied and put into place. It’s usually best to get your own house in order before inviting too many guests.

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