Downtown Master Plan: Read first, then comment

The Downtown Master Plan process has produced an amazing public response through 14 public meetings. Throughout the process, our chosen planning team has learned about the diverse aspects of our community’s vision for downtown’s future. The draft plan is now available for review and download at www.ashevillenc.gov/downtownmasterplan.

There is a lot of conversation out in the community about aspects of the plan and how it might work. For those of us who remember all those years when downtown was largely ignored and empty, the passion in that conversation is a testament to how far we’ve come. The plan is complex, just as our city is complex. Your best chance of understanding it and weighing in thoughtfully will depend on your reading and studying the plan yourself. No short synopsis or characterization by someone else, accurate or not, is going to be an adequate substitute. After you’ve read it, send your comments to: downtownmasterplan@ashevillenc.gov.

It’s highly unlikely that anyone in our community will agree with everything in the plan. I have heard from many people that although they disagree with parts of the plan, they are amazed at the clear effort made to incorporate the best aspects of the disparate and sometimes conflicting views we hold as a community. Given the fact that—as a community—we have also been prone to hyperbole, I have also heard the plan described as a “socialistic, communistic plot by Nazi capitalists.” Given that level of internally contradictory hyperbole, apparently the process has gone very well.

Although hyperbole can be entertaining, I hope—out of respect for the thousands of hours of work our community has put into the process—that you’ll take the time to read the plan yourself. Celebrate the parts you agree with. Write comments on parts you see as a problem. Propose solutions and thoughtful alternatives. As you see parts you don’t agree with, I hope you’ll pause to consider that those parts represent the beliefs of someone else in our community who also cares about Asheville and our collective future as much as you do.

Our public processes in this community have in the past fallen somewhat short of the ideal. This planning process is a great opportunity for us to do better. If we carry this planning process through to the end—with civility and a willingness to consider that our strength is that no one of us has all the answers—we can have a great, and representative, plan for the future of our downtown.

— Pat Whalen, chairman
Asheville Downtown Commission

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