Letter: Turn city lot entirely into a park

Graphic by Lori Deaton

So why not squeeze in another hotel?

No, City Council members Brian Haynes and Cecil Bothwell have the right idea — turn the vacant, city-owned parcel fronting St. Lawrence Basilica and the U.S. Cellular Center entirely into a park.

The way things stand now, an “advisory committee” [was] looking into the future of the Haywood Street acreage, close also to Pack Library and Malaprop’s Bookstore.

Beside conversion entirely into a park, tentative plans call for “mixed usage” — a small building and open space or construction of a parking garage. Granted, more parking space is needed downtown, but so is a place there in this vibrant area to sit down, sip coffee and enjoy the passing parade of tourists and locals, buskers included. Bobby Sax, the alto-blowing fixture outside most Cellular Center events, could headquarter himself in the new park — a contest could be held to come up for the name of it.

Objections to the park plan include a possible need for police protection. Well, our finest and the folks inhabiting Pritchard Park seem to get along well enough — why would things be any different several blocks up the street?

Some contend that conversion into a park would mean a loss of revenue — well, why not look elsewhere; hey, why not an increase in the hotel bed tax?

— Dave Rowe


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14 thoughts on “Letter: Turn city lot entirely into a park

  1. Lulz

    Well OK but those same tourist should pay for it. They don’t pay for squat now except a crony tourism board and to line the pockets of the rich.

  2. Gordon Smith

    Everyone will be glad to know that City Council unanimously chose a Haywood Street Task Force, with representatives from Friends of St. Lawrence Green, the Basilica, Battery Park Apartments, etc., and that group delivered a report (approved on a 16-1 vote) to Council last month. The report recommends green space (park!), other civic space (buskers, food trucks!), as well as built environment elements (I’m rooting for housing!). You can read the report here: https://www.slideshare.net/gordonsmithasheville/haywood-st-task-force-report

  3. Ron Ogle

    In this report, the Advisory Team compiled a list of possible uses on the site which, “if suitable” “could be used as considerations”. Everyone will not be glad to find that every possible use apparently has been “recommended” by this faulted report.

  4. The author is uninformed with respect to how hotel occupancy taxes work and dreadfully uninformed about crime in and around Pritchard park.

  5. Ron Ogle

    Re: “crime in and around Pritchard park.” This Haywood Street park area is, unlike Pritchard Park, surrounded by many dozens of residential windows with nosy old people watching what is going on there. A friend of mine had the police called on her when someone saw her planting a flower. PS: Let’s change how Hotel taxes ‘work’!

    • NFB

      “PS: Let’s change how Hotel taxes ‘work’!”

      Good luck with getting the TDA to give up some of their slush fund.

      • Lulz

        I think if the voices got loud enough in council like it did during the water debate, even going so far as to sue, things would change. But the local cronies don’t want it to. Don’t place blame squarely on the TDA when it’s convenient for the local political machine has been silent on the issue for a long time. And has done absolutely nothing about it.

  6. NFB

    “why not an increase in the hotel bed tax?”

    Because the city can’t. That tax can only be increased by the state legislature which will never do that without the Tourism Development Authority requesting it to be raised.

    Even if it were to be raised NONE of that tax money goes to the city. It goes 100% to the TDA which uses it to promote Asheville tourism. Having some of that money go to the city, to help pay for some of the services tourists use can only happen if the state legislature agrees and that will only happen if the TDA agrees and the TDA has been adamant in its refusal for anyone else getting even a small part of its slush fund.

    This brings us to another question that has been asked in these forums many times but never gets answered, so I’ll give it another go.

    When City Council approved plans by John McKibbon to renovate the BB&T building, Mr. McKibbon said he would start advocating for a portion of the hotel room tax to go the city. Does anyone have any updates on how this advocacy from Mr. McKibbion is going?

  7. Ron Ogle

    This from Jay Fields, the person who wrote the Haywood Task Force “vision statement.”
    On the Edge of Brilliance
    by Jay Fields

    I feel honored to have been one of seventeen Asheville folks who worked through a ten-month review of the city’s Haywood/Page public space, a much-maligned and jumbled up area sliced through with too many streets and odd intersections in front of St. Lawrence Basilica and the civic center. The task of this advisory committee came down to recommending, based on a gargantuan amount of citizen input, exactly what most people wanted and envisioned as occurring in this undeveloped area, roughly 2.5 acres that have defied organization into anything worthwhile for more than a decade.

    To put it another way, the idea was to “tee up” for qualified (and hopefully brilliant) designers, yet to be named, how most people felt about the space, plus notes on topography, pedestrian and traffic flow and other phenomena confronting a sensitive design process. Moreover, the team was asked to develop a core vision for how the area will work and what it could eventually mean as an inspirational destination for residents and visitors.

    A concern that I have personally had throughout the process is that whatever “view” congeals, it should provide an un-muddled interpretation for the design team, the exact reverse of trying to be “everything for everybody.” In other words, the primary proposed uses of the space should be clear as a bell, not pulled down with innumerable options, as in “well, we could do this” or “we could do that.”

    On that basis, and taking into account the overwhelming majority of citizen responses calling for an open (park-like or green) space with multiple open space uses, I think it was clear to everyone on the team that “passive/active” open space has ruled the roost of everyone’s thinking from the very start.

    Any trouble in the hen house, so to speak, for any and all parties involved seems to have arisen over the words “education,” “housing” and “retail” as small bubbles that wound up affixed to the idea of an active open area.

    For what it’s worth, and strictly speaking as an individual, I believe these words are not only poorly chosen, but incredibly distractive to a central concept for the space.

    I saw them, all along, as peripheral and down-the-line tangential to building a fabulous open space, conceivably with gardens, paths, fountains, trees, views and public art.

    So, I truly believe it’s time to put the accent on the right syllable, as my mom used to say.

    And the accent should be on breathtaking, inspirational beauty, on community, on relaxation and wonder. Education may be an ad hoc book club meeting in the open space under a tree, housing in an extremely complementary way could develop well down the line beyond the edge of the park and retail, drawn to the beauty of the space (but not within it), would naturally provide opportunities and fill some needs without defacing the inherent beauty of a gorgeous space.

    So I’m simply asking that we all raise our expectations. At one point in time Central Park was a dream, as was Bryant Park and the High Line, all in Manhattan. These great spaces (linear in the case of the High Line) were not built out of a muddled view or any effort to compromise the uplifting value of a breathtaking space. They were built with the notion do it right, do it for the long term, and all the rest will come, not the least of “all the rest” meaning an enduring love for an intricately thought-through space turned into something of sure merit by masters with a clear vision.

    The worst thing we could do, especially after all this consideration, is to lower the sights of what this space could be and especially try to make it a space that includes something of everything. That is not how great spaces work.

    I was asked to help write a “sense of place” vision statement as part of the report for Tuesday’s council presentation. One of my favorite lines reads:

    “Whenever I walk into this space, changeable and fluid with the seasons, it’s like a curtain rising on one of the city’s most consequential and beautiful urban spaces.”

    Let’s not stop until that dream comes true.

  8. Alan Ditmore

    Parks and beauty both raise rents and cause homelessness and gentrification. Parks by displacing potential housing and thereby limiting the housing supply and beauty by increasing market demand and attracting the elite gentry. Therefore beautiful parks are a dangerous and inhumane evil.

    • Deplorable Infidel

      In that case, let’s build a buncha new parks like we need them! If it raises rents I fer it! lol…

  9. John Penley

    I would like to suggest that a camping area for homeless Veterans be included if this becomes only a park. Add toilets and showers please. Anyone have the guts to say hell no let those homeless Vets stay homeless ? No I didn’t think so but I also never see anyone and especially Asheville politicians who are ok with large amounts spent for River Art Districts and big Parks even talk about even 1 housing project for homeless Vets.

    • Ron Ogle

      $450,000. spent on that recent Pack Square Park ‘ VETERAN’S MEMORIAL’ !!

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