Congratulations to the writers of many letters expressing their desire to create a park near the Basilica of St. Lawrence; they are passionate and persistent. They fear anything other than a park.
What is lacking is a reality check on the situation. But first, allow me to stipulate two things: (1) I like parks ― I view them and use them and appreciate them in all their majesty; and (2) I really like the basilica ― it’s beautiful and significant, and I’ve toured it inside and out.
Now for the reality. The basilica is located directly across Flint Street from the U.S. Cellular Center, an important multipurpose facility that was built in 1974 in a style that might be called mountain contemporary. OK, I’m being charitable, but the architects had to encompass the old Municipal Auditorium into the complex, so it had to be difficult to design and build.
The result is that the basilica is less than 100 feet from an incredibly different kind of structure, and a really big one at that, and it still manages to more than hold its own.
The basilica is also immediately adjacent to Interstate 240, where about 70,000 vehicles per day roll by with their accompanying noise, vibration and air pollution. And yet the basilica survives.
And to the west and southwest are less-than-lovely surface parking lots that are not owned by the city of Asheville, but rather by the Basilica of St. Lawrence, that are used commercially to raise funds for the parish: $65/month, $30/week or $10/day.
My conclusion: No matter what City Council decides to do with the city-owned property to the south, the basilica will survive and probably flourish. It would be nice if a solution could be found that would create an income-producing land use on the property that benefits the civic center, has an open space element and respects the basilica’s unique design.
How about a city-sponsored design competition to get the juices flowing?
― Paul B. Kelman