I live full time within walking distance (if necessary) of the Asheville central business district. I include in downtown Asheville the central business district and the adjacent residential/business neighborhoods. I define the perimeters of downtown Asheville as follows: Hillside Street on the north, Merrimon Avenue and continuing with Asheland Avenue on the west, Town Mountain Road and continuing with Tunnel Road on the east and Swannanoa River Road on the south.
In the past decade, I have lived part time in downtown Charleston, S.C., part time in Asheville in Montford and off Charlotte Street and the rest of the time in nearby Hendersonville.
In October of this year, I tried to drive to the main public library in the downtown business district. It was not during busy traffic hours (8 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.). Every parking deck was full, and I saw no parking places on the streets of the central business district. I drove around and around and finally gave up and drove home.
On a recent Sunday in November, I tried to find a parking space to go to a church I attend in the downtown business district. I drove repeatedly around several blocks in the business district and watched as the only nearby city parking deck filled as quickly as cars exited.
There were no empty parking spaces on the street I circled. Finally, I parked in the nearby U.S. post office parking lot. I assumed that it was OK to park there since the post office is closed all day on Sundays. There were two other cars parked there. When I left the church service about 1 1/4 hours later, the car was gone. It had been towed, resulting in a $195 towing charge to retrieve my borrowed car (if I picked it up within 24 hours of the towing time). I borrowed $195 from a friend and picked up the car Monday morning.
Do the governments (city or federal) — I guess in this case, the federal — contract with the local towing companies to patrol the parking lots to tow cars away for these exorbitant extortion amounts? Are the towing companies trolling the streets of downtown or just watching nearby to catch their latest prey?
When I walk the sidewalks of the downtown business district any day of the week, the sidewalks usually are too narrow and dangerous and in desperate need of repair. The streets and sidewalks in the neighborhoods (business and residential) adjacent to the central business district are very narrow and in need of repair. For cars to proceed in two directions, cars often dangerously have to weave in and out of the parked cars that line the streets. Traffic often is very dangerously backed up on the streets in the downtown business district and in the adjacent business/residential neighborhoods.
The interference to the streets and sidewalks resulting from the construction of the hotels is horrible, making a bad situation even worse.
The new hotels and other high-rise buildings are blocking the views of the nearby mountains and view of the historic downtown buildings.
Charleston, S.C., and Hendersonville have preserved and maintained their downtowns without building new hotels or other high-rise buildings. (Although some old existing Charleston buildings have been renovated as hotels.) Their skylines have stayed the same. Buildings over certain heights are strictly prohibited.
Charleston wants to preserve the beautiful views of the Ashley and Cooper rivers and of the Charleston Harbor and of existing historic buildings. Hendersonville wants to preserve its views of the mountains and views of historic buildings in downtown Hendersonville. The new hotels and other high-rise buildings in downtown Charleston and in downtown Hendersonville are built outside of their downtowns. Many hotel and other high-rise buildings have been built outside of downtown Charleston and downtown Hendersonville, which are very accessible without jeopardizing the viability of their downtowns. Both Charleston and Hendersonville are thriving and beautiful, attracting visitors and residents alike. Why can’t Asheville follow their examples?
Asheville, however, is fast becoming a victim of its own success. The new hotels and other new high-rise buildings will cause even more traffic on the already-crowded streets and sidewalks, often in terrible need of repair. The added vehicular traffic will cause additional deterioration of the streets and sidewalks. Parking will become even less available. Unless there is an immediate moratorium (and then prohibition) of all future hotels and other future new buildings in the downtown business district, until the streets and sidewalks are repaired, and until more parking is made available, downtown Asheville will die a painful (and still unnecessary) death. (Also, what if there is another recession?)
Tourists and downtown residents will no longer want to visit or reside in downtown Asheville. Asheville will become known as a town of very congested traffic, a town with narrow and unrepaired streets and sidewalks, a town with too few parking spaces, a town with very high hotel room rates, a town which tries to prohibit short-term rentals, a town which no longer has many views of the beautiful surrounding mountains and a town which has diminished views of the historic buildings — churches, restaurants, offices, etc., built before the crash of 1929.
Visitors and residents will instead go to other Southeastern locations — like Charleston, Greenville, S.C., Savannah, Hendersonville, Brevard, etc.
Let’s preserve Asheville before we destroy it.
— Lex Veazey