Sears in the Asheville Mall will close in July! Then, picture this: A development by Seritage Growth Properties will follow, part of which will include a 10-story, 104-foot apartment building, which will rise out of the demolition dust, dwarfing the proposed enjoyable new plaza, restaurants and theater.
This parcel, on the high-traffic corner of Tunnel and South Tunnel roads, is currently zoned for buildings not to be higher than 80 feet. In fact, there are no buildings on these roads higher than 80 feet; most are much lower. This zoning variance, if allowed by the city, will create a new height standard outside of downtown Asheville, opening the doors to future giant-box buildings. Hundreds of additional vehicles will jam the intersections at Tunnel and South Tunnel roads. Once changed, according to Barber Melton, an East Asheville member of the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Committee, “There’s no legal way to go back.”
With the future closure of Sears a foregone conclusion, I am in favor of the redevelopment. Several neighbors attended a public meeting with Seritage in December and were excited by the prospect of an upscale theater, restaurants and a plaza. We have significant concerns that must be addressed.
New rush-hour commuters and the 10-screen theatergoers will overwhelm the intersections exiting the property, especially to the north. I believe the required traffic impact study results will confirm all of our concerns. A 104-foot apartment complex would cast a shadow over many homes in Kenilworth Forest, as well as present a very unappealing focus to all who approach Asheville from I-240 as well as other routes and locations.
Our city believes it needs additional housing and that the only way to go is up. However, the Sears redevelopment area has additional land available which can achieve the desired density within an 80-foot height.
We cannot afford to negate the mountain charm of Asheville. Melton says, “Asheville must be careful not to kill the golden goose.”
Before the project proposal goes to the City Council, I implore Asheville Planning and Zoning to decline the 104-foot height variation from the existing 80-foot code.
— Rick Freeman
President, Kenilworth Forest Residents Association