Letter writer: Development near Basilica would destroy integrity of masterpiece

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Read with surprise the position of a reader about the space across from the Basilica of St. Lawrence and how it should be used. A point that is completely overlooked is the basilica itself, its beauty, architectural uniqueness and how it has added to the charm and beauty of Asheville.

The integrity of this masterpiece will be obliterated by the proposed commercial “development” of that space. A green space, for the use of all citizens and visitors, will enhance the beauty of this area rather than destroy it with yet another hotel and parking garage.

The reader suggests we already have more green spaces and parks than we need. I think what we have more of than we need are hotels.

And, why is it that the desires of most citizens of Asheville are of absolutely no interest to City Council? Can you hear us, City Council?

— Patricia Wald
Asheville

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7 thoughts on “Letter writer: Development near Basilica would destroy integrity of masterpiece

  1. Grant Milin

    City of Asheville has been moving off the idea that another luxury hotel/condo project is the most likely scenario for the 68-76 Haywood Street property. That’s a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

    When speaking of Basilica of Saint Lawrence it is most wise to keep in mind the Catholic Diocese property right across from the basilica. McKibbon Hotel Management is no longer a partner in the COA-Catholic Diocese design principles worked out through the Asheville Design Center. A unified COA-Catholic Diocese project the repress Asheville values but won’t be 100 percent parkland looks viable.

    Just asking for parkland here defies the strategy so far. I urge folks to look into a larger high value sustainability vision for these very strategic properties before its too late.

    One vision for the City of Asheville 68-76 Haywood Street property and 88,000 citizens

    http://www.grantmillin.com/one-vision-for-68-76-haywood-and-88000-citizens/

  2. NFB

    Why is it so many of the advocates for a park in the space insist on being intellectually dishonest?

    The idea that the only option to a park is a parking lot or another hotel is a false choice. Among those options, and one supported by various members of City Council and candidates for Council for a building that includes the open space of a public plaza.

    In addition so many supporters of a park, such as this letter writer, make the claim that a majority of the people of Asheville support a part in this space. (“And, why is it that the desires of most citizens of Asheville are of absolutely no interest to City Council? ” ) Yet the have no evidence of this. It just seems to be one of those things that they claim, without support, because they think it strengthens their claim or maybe because the travel in circles of only those who agree with them.

    There are already two parks downtown — three is you count Martin Luther King Park and four if you count Aston Park (five if you count the proposed one for the South Slope.) The best use of this space would be something that respects the integrity of the basilica and downtown while also contributing to the tax rolls so that we can pay for the parks we already have and maybe even actually get some money into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund so many say they want to fully fund but we never seem to do.

  3. hauntedheadnc

    If the construction of the US Cellular Center, whose design appears to have been chosen out of sheer hatred of the city of Asheville, back in the 70’s didn’t destroy the integrity of the basilica, nothing will.

  4. bsummers

    There are already two parks downtown

    And they are increasingly stressed by overuse, in a downtown that has an ever-growing tourism base. Do we want to look back 10 years from now, and wish that we had taken the opportunity to preserve some green space?

    As for the tax rolls, three years ago, City staff projected that a full service hotel on that property would only generate about $61,000 per year in property tax. As we know, the City would receive none of the occupancy tax – that money goes to attract more tourists, and salaries, bonuses and “profit sharing” for TDA employees. Nor would the City receive but a single-digit percentage of the normal sales taxes generated from any business there.

    It seems that every time there’s an unpopular development on the table, this is the argument that is levied, and you have to be very skeptical. When the Grove Park Inn wanted to build condos on Pack Square Park in 2003, we were told it would generate $1.5 million in annual tax revenue. Baloney. They were counting GPI’s (as it turned out, completely fictional) “Site B” development on the Marjorie Street lot next to City Hall, in the amount they wanted us to believe would result solely from the condominiums on “Site A”. That entire section of Pack Square Park where the restrooms currently are, most of the way down to the Fire Dept., would have been private property, with a giant building looming over the remaining park. And if we didn’t sell this land to the private developers who wanted it, we would all die shivering in the dark.

    http://main.nc.us/GPIBldg.jpg

    The wealth of a city isn’t measured solely by the amount of tax revenue it collects. It’s also measured by the natural beauty it pledges to conserve within its borders, and the quality of life for its residents.

    When it’s public land, Seller Beware.

    • Grant Milin

      I suggest parkland with a garden, but 100 percent parkland there is unlikely. If folks want 100 percent green space and to also ignore the Catholic Diocese property, start a nonprofit like Pack Square Park Conservancy in any case and make a realistic play.

    • NFB

      “As for the tax rolls, three years ago, City staff projected that a full service hotel on that property would only generate about $61,000 per year in property tax.”

      Is that $61,000 estimate current? Since the idea of a hotel on that property is no longer considered an option would another type of development bring in more in property tax? Any estimates on how much it would cost to both build AND maintain a park?

      “As we know, the City would receive none of the occupancy tax – that money goes to attract more tourists, and salaries, bonuses and “profit sharing” for TDA employees. ”

      Agreed. And I recognize the slush fund that the room tax is for the TDA. But a hotel is not the only option for the property and in fact is no longer being considered.

      For the record, despite many of my posts here I am not adamantly opposed to a park in this space, just deeply skeptical. Personally I’d love to see some affordable housing there so that people other than the uber wealthy can live downtown as well. While I recognize this spot may not be practical for that anything that can get more money into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund perks my interest up over a park.

      Thanks for your input.

  5. HuhHuh

    Another park would mean another campout for homeless that would need to be patrolled by APD. If we can’t monitor the parks we have now, we don’t need another park yet.

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