What would St. Lawrence do?

The fact that we Ashevilleans could elect a City Council that would even consider putting yet another hotel on the property across from St. Lawrence Basilica shows how debased our economy has made us.

Gazing through a lush, landscaped park on that property, with Rafael Guastavino’s magnificent church providing the backdrop, would be exquisitely tranquil and beautiful while lounging at a Grove Arcade table. Or picnicking under a tree while preparing for your child’s graduation, a concert or a Southern Highland’s Craft Fair. Instead we’ll probably build another rectangular-monstrosity hotel, like the one going up on Biltmore Avenue.

Yes, if we do choose a park, there’ll be some poor people there. But maybe their presence by a basilica that’s supposed to symbolize the infinite compassion of Jesus will shame Asheville into caring for them, rather than seeing them as mainly threats to business.

Looking at the front of the Basilica you see a statue of Saint Lawrence in the center, holding a grid iron. Legend or fact has it that the Romans demanded he fork over the treasures of his church, circa A.D. 300. Instead, Lawrence gave what valuables he had to the poor, and when the Romans came, he presented hundreds of poor people to them saying: “These people are my treasures.”

As a result the Romans burned Lawrence on a grid iron. After a while Lawrence said: “Turn me over, I’m done on that side.” (Look it up!) Thus he is now considered the patron saint of cooks. A sculpture dedicated to St. Lawrence, the many magnificent chefs in Asheville who often labor for little pay and less security and to the poor could be constructed at the center of what should be St. Lawrence’s Poor Chef Park.

— Bill Branyon

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14 thoughts on “What would St. Lawrence do?

  1. Bill Branyon

    Egad! I still missed the point. That being that we have the infinitely rare opportunity to enlarge our downtown greenspaces, to make a park, a community gathering place, a mind resting, nature zesting zone… but not everyone is leaping for joy at the prospect. Instead we’re actually having a debate about whether a park is a good thing, and drearily reciting cost benefit ratios, revenue generation, and undesirable’s proliferation. And flagrantly flaunting how strange our values have become.

  2. bsummers

    As I said on another thread, I believe it is wise economically to put a park here instead of another highrise. Make the area more attractive to tourists, give them and local residents a reason to hang around and patronize current or future businesses (how much economic benefit falls on restaurants etc. that surround Pritchard Park?), give those people (both professional and amateur) who promote Asheville as a destination one more beautiful vista to photograph, and finally, send the message that the City of Asheville is wise and forward-thinking enough to preserve our few open spaces for the benefit of all, instead of cranking up one more highrise.

    There is buildable land all over town. This developer can put up a hotel somewhere other than this jewel location, and everyone wins.

    • indy499

      It wouldn’t let me respond below to your comment/question about the supposed 2 million offer from the diocese.

      It is a smoke and mirrors $ 2 million offer per Cecil on 880 the Revolution. $ 1 million now, they gain some parking revenue and maybe another million sometime later. Present Value of the offer probably a bit over a million. The city could earn 75k per year from parking alone, so the incremental pv from the diocese is modest at best.

  3. NFB

    Perhaps St. Lawrence’s devotion to the poor can better be honored, not with a park, but with affordable housing.

    It is interesting how the whole discussion on what to do with this property comes down to either a hotel or a park. Are there no other options?

  4. indy499

    No, everybody doesn’t win. If you are an Asheville resident who doesn’t frequent downtown you will be paying for another park and not accrue the revenue from selling the property and the taxes it will produce.

    • bsummers

      Perhaps you’re not aware that the diocese has offered the City in excess of $2 million for the property?

      And while many of us are advocating for a park, the diocese offer includes a mixed-use proposal for a low-rise building and a plaza. It will generate revenue for the City, and still retain the open space. Check it out here:


      Or are you determined to only see the biggest blockiest, most obtrusive thing possible on that site? Here’s the type of hotel the developer apparently wants to build there:


  5. D. Dial

    “I believe it is wise economically to put a park here instead of another highrise. “ ~ Barry Summers

    I think this sentence should read “butt ugly” highrise. All the high rises that were recently built are long on ugly and short on respect for the architecture that makes Asheville a special place.

    • bsummers

      “I think this sentence should read “butt ugly” highrise.”

      Haven’t you heard? It’s a kinder and gentler bsummers these days. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of whatever architect sold his sole to cram these butt ugly highrises into…

      Oh, you see what you did there?

  6. D. Dial

    Sorry, I had no intention of bringing out your dark side. My bad :-\

  7. D. Dial

    Sorry, I had no intention of bringing out your dark side. My bad :-\

  8. bsummers

    “It is a smoke and mirrors $ 2 million offer”

    I had not heard it described that way.

  9. indy499

    It actually was Cecil’s description on a radio show, but in this (rare) instance, it looks like he got one about right.

  10. Bill Branyon

    It’s a one in a hundred years chance! Expand park space downtown! The value is immense, and unquantifiable, but a heck of a lot more than a couple of million. The fact that it’s even up for discussion amazes me. Both the St. Lawrence and hotelier offer are ludicrous when compared to the fabulous possibility of shady green lounging downtown.

    • indy499

      It’s unquantifiable, but worth a lot more than a couple million. Really? Guess it depends on who pays for the park, the ongoing maintenance and what could have been earned if the city sold the land.

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