Sitting by its lonesome down on the South Slope, a massive, costly, brand-spanking-new concrete structure sits empty, unused, lost, with no purpose in sight. A ghostly parking garage with no cars built on top of perfectly good office buildings now rubble, buried in red dirt surrounding the structure like a moat of the failed development it has become. Weeds, now the only sign of life.
A few blocks away, City Council and another appointed committee fret over how to best spend either $100 million or $200 million to rehab the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, a building that anyone knows fully well is absurd. Humans expire, and buildings do, too.
Why not take the private developers of the South Slope project and the bankers and others involved in a project gone bad out of their pain? For the City of Asheville’s gain.
The City of Asheville should buy the garage and surrounding land, probably for pennies on the dollar if it is not already in bankruptcy court, and build a new Thomas Wolfe complex on the site, a parking garage already built.
This would also solve another major problem.
Just the other week, South Slope merchants were interviewed by Channel 13 about a new, expensive, long-awaited city plan for their area. The news reporter stood in front of Swannanoa Cleaners with the above-mentioned ghost garage hanging out in the background. Everyone interviewed said parking was the most urgent problem facing that area. Well now, how about that? The very same parking garage could be made available to the merchants behind it when the Thomas Wolfe was not in use.
Two major problems solved with one smart move.
I ask our woke City Council to wake up a solution waiting to happen.
— David Schulman
Editor’s note: Schulman reports that he is a longtime former retailer in Western North Carolina and former president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. He has spent the last 20 years of his career being a redeveloper: searching for failed real estate projects to turn them into successes.