Wailin’ on Whalen

J. Patrick Whalen’s commentary [“Grow Up or Grow Out,” Oct. 10] held no surprises. What would you expect someone to say about The Ellington when his company stands to make a huge windfall on the property sale alone? No, all the rhetoric was there that we have come to expect—the point-by-point refutation of the opposition, the description of his ideal Asheville, all the good things that will come from this monstrosity being built. Yep, nothing unusual here.

Truth of the matter: The Ellington is most definitely ill-sized for its placement. Anyone who has looked at a scale rendering, be it two- or three-dimensional, would be hard-pressed to say it fits in with its surrounding neighborhood. It completely dwarfs everything. This is common knowledge to anyone who doesn’t wear “developer goggles,” which render all space fair game and all projects as must-dos and beneficial for the community. Yes, we need infill, and yes, we need to grow up, not out. But when do you stop sacrificing your integrity and sense of right and wrong for the obvious financial payoff? When do you say that the money isn’t all that important, that the public good trumps that argument?

Many times, “Public Interest” is best served by building nothing, and putting time and energy into fixing and improving what we already have. And this is what Public Interest Projects largely did for the first dozen or so years of its existence. This was also when its founder and spiritual leader, Julian Price, was alive and significantly involved. His role in the development of downtown was integral and indispensable. Resting on his laurels [and] accomplishments clouds whatever PIP’s mission statement may currently be, but I would bet that Mr. Price, rest his soul, would be at odds with it—philosophically, if nothing else.

But then, I never met Mr. Price, though I had often wanted to, as he made possible the Asheville that I encountered when I moved here 12 years ago. As such, I cannot speak authoritatively on what he may or may not have envisioned for Asheville’s future. It just seems to me that we are much poorer and at greater risk without him at the helm of PIP. Mr. Whalen needs to check in with his “inner-Julian” and ask if this is actually a private interest project.

City Council is far too eager to sell off this town to the first person to wave money under their nose and promise a token contribution for “affordable” housing (anyone else laughing here?). They still haven’t grasped the fact [that] there are more people with money that want a piece of Asheville than there are places to build. We do not need to give in to anyone; we can name our terms, our price for those folks who want to do business. They aren’t going away, and we maintain a ridiculous level of attraction to thousands of people. After all, we still have water—until we develop ourselves into a deeper drought. But that is another issue, another letter.

— Rick Melby

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One thought on “Wailin’ on Whalen

  1. Unit

    Amazing that people like Mr. Melby choose to obsess themselves with this project, which admittedly will have a large impact, but ignore the gated communities, sprawling subdivisions, and uninterrupted mats of strip mall hell extending incessantly up the hillsides and down the valleys. If we want to talk about protecting our resources, our water, our vistas, and our health, objecting to this project doesn’t help. In fact, it probably hurts, as it encourages developers to sprawl – who can blame them when the local wingnuts rise up against development within the city? Mr. Whalen is a wholly honorable man, working to strengthen this community. I’d like to know what you have done to strengthen this community, Mr. Melby.

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