The Sept.14 issue’s headlining article, “Road to Redevelopment: Big Infrastructure Upgrades on RAD’s Horizon” [Xpress], was certainly thorough in its appraisal of how the RAD’s redevelopment would affect artists’ businesses and daily lives — however, the article neglected to evaluate how the construction and infrastructure improvements will affect the surrounding residential neighborhood of Southside. This leads to an unbalanced public discourse that centers the narrative of development on the positive impact for some, while ignoring the experience of many of the area’s deeply rooted citizens.
This article mentions that one of the greenways “will thread its way through the booming South Slope neighborhood … Along the way, signage and exhibits will highlight the South Slope’s heritage as a vibrant African-American community during the days of segregation and the civil rights movement.” As of the last Census (2010), the neighborhood was 55 percent black, which is quite a significant when one considers that Asheville is only 13 percent African-American. This suggests that Southside is more than historically African-American as the article seems to put forth, but is also presently home to a significant black population.
Southside has been gentrifying since the area’s urban renewal project of the 1970s when huge swaths of Southsiders were removed from their homes and placed in public housing (according to Inside East Riverside, the neighborhood was 98 percent black at the time). One wonders: Will these new infrastructure projects raise property value in such a way that makes rates of gentrification in the area rise exponentially? Is the city interested in offsetting this issue and maintaining and growing diverse communities — starting with folks who have been in Asheville decades upon decades?
Asheville’s history with urban renewal and the city’s moves toward slowly eliminating public housing and pushing poor folks out into the county suggest that the city doesn’t actually want to truly maintain a racially diverse Asheville. I suggest the Mountain Xpress account for these realities in future discussions of the RAD redevelopment project and other projects like it.
— Erin Daniell