Letter: Listen to downtown and South Slope business owners

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I am writing in response to recent decisions made by Asheville City Council regarding downtown. These include the bike lanes on College Street and the diversion of $2 million from South Slope to McCormick Field. (Don’t start me on the gimme to McCormick.)

Ms. Esther Manheimer feels that “if you get the people out of their cars, walking around and hanging out, you create a safer environment. More eyes on the street is a more safe city.” I have to ask if the eyes of the Council are on the street. The evidence shows that, even though they all work downtown, it took national media attention and a scathing series of articles by the Asheville Watchdog before any attention was given to this vital issue. It seems like they really had no idea it was a problem until there was a possibility of tourist dollars being affected. Downtown workers and locals want the streets to be safe first, not to be the “eyes” watching the crime, misery and mental illness unfold. Do they seriously think us gawking at these things will keep them from happening?

A laughable assurance regarding the bike lanes was contributed by Sage Turner: “If we see businesses fall to the wayside and leave downtown because they can’t handle the bike lane, then I will be the first to call the three women up here who are not supportive of it and say, ‘We have got a problem, and I need the four of us to rally and fix it.’”

Really? First, Ms. Turner, in this hypothetical scenario should say, “We created a problem …” And so once local businesses have fled downtown, they can undo the damage and they will come back? Is that how the real world works?

Speaking of undoing damage, let’s not forget Merrimon Avenue. I personally will never travel that road again. I have found other businesses in different parts of the city to frequent instead. The traffic is a nightmare, and the bike lanes are not being used enough to justify the fustercluck the area has become. Has this problem been acknowledged by the Council? Are they collectively going to “rally and fix it”? Or will it be another shrug and move on? Since it is not a tourist area and mere locals are at stake, of course, it will be the latter.

I urge the Council to listen to downtown and South Slope business owners. I respectfully remind them that the vision and creativity of local business owners are what saved downtown in the first place. As I’m sure they recall, the “vision” of local government at the time was to gut downtown and build a mall. Yes, I realize different politicians were on the Council at the time. I do believe, however, that the different perspectives of elected officials and local business owners remain widely divergent. Although I belong to neither group, I would give more weight to people who have invested sweat, money and time into enterprises that, should they fail, would mean disaster to them, their families and their employees. Maybe they know something that people elected to office for a few years don’t.

Please listen.

— Julia Martin


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Letter: Listen to downtown and South Slope business owners

  1. indy499

    Julia, you are wrong only about one thing. The council doesn’t generally work downtown. And none of them live downtown. That’s why they pass laws that treat their neighborhoods differently than downtoen, eg, noise ordinace.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.