What if they don’t come?

After reading about the two proposed new high-rise buildings downtown [“Haywood Park Project Clears First Hurdle,” Xpress, July 9], I am left wondering why so much building is going on in downtown Asheville. The rate of expansion in the Asheville area is being grossly overdone. The “build it and they will come” approach is just not right for a small city like Asheville.

If Asheville were the size of Charlotte [with its] demand for housing and business space, then I would say go ahead and build away. Unfortunately, none of the developers and builders are realizing that the demand for space in Asheville is just not that great. The Asheville area and the rest of the country are in a severe economic downturn. In my West Asheville neighborhood, there are houses that have been on the market for over a year without selling. I see people advertising houses for sale at significantly reduced prices. Some of the new downtown buildings are empty, and many older buildings downtown are vacant. The Citizen-Times [reported on] three local restaurants that have closed because of the economic slowdown, lack of tourists visiting the area, local road work and rising fuel prices. I just don’t see how having all kinds of available (and empty) retail and business spaces will benefit the local economy.

As a resident of Asheville for just over a year, all I’ve seen is build, build, build: two big high-rises built in downtown, a building going up with supposedly million-dollar condos, another downtown high-rise being refurbished into office space, a strip mall disguised as a European village, a hotel going up in the Biltmore Estate area, the recent approval of the Parkside condos downtown, an entire mountainside flattened to make a small city (Stone Mountain) in Woodfin, and now talk of approving a 25-floor hotel and a 23-floor condo building on Haywood Street. Wow, I’m overwhelmed.

I am from a city in upstate New York with a population just over five times that of Asheville. Overexpansion in that city has led to an economic downturn in the entire metropolitan area, and it is now referred to as one of the “rust belt” cities of decline. Marjorie Klein “No Rewind for Asheville,” Letters, July 2] opposed the Parkside condos project and talked about having moved out of the Miami area before it “imploded” due to overexpansion. She feels that Asheville is on the path to doing the same as Miami. I agree. In late 2003, my parents moved to the Bradenton, Fla., area. Every time I visit, all I see is more and more buildings going up. In December 2007, I visited a 24-unit condo building, built since my [previous] visit, that was completely empty. My mother told me that nothing in the area was selling. Since then we’ve seen a nationwide housing-market slump that has partly contributed to the national economic downturn.

I just don’t see the demand for so much expansion in Asheville. If there were 10,000 people who could afford $800,000 condos and hundreds of businesses all looking to move into Asheville, then I’d say the current rate of building is justified. Until then, we need to slow down and hopefully prevent Asheville from having unsold building, unused housing, unrented retail space and empty hotels.

— Chris Hayes

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4 thoughts on “What if they don’t come?

  1. travelah

    How many of the higher end condos are not moving on the market? Prior to the recent slow down, they could not be built fast enough. Real estate prices are high in the region because there is a premium demand. You are an example of the pressures on the housing market, having just moved here yourself.

  2. As a young professional who is being forced out of downtown due to sky-rocketing rent prices in the past two-three years, I know all to well how tight the current housing market is.
    But I don’t know a single ‘local’ or anyone who has actually lived & worked here for more than 5 years who can afford such luxury condos.
    I really would be interested in census of how many high priced condos ($180,000 or higher) do not currently have residents.

  3. travelah

    JBo, I know several that could if they wanted to. I cannot afford to live downtown but for that matter I cannot afford to live downtown in most desirable cities. Asheville is no different.

  4. Trav –

    well I obviously must not hang out in the ‘right’ circles, because I’ve lived here for over 15 years and I can name at best two folks who could live in said condos.

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