The Asheville Downtown Association has officially endorsed a plan to have the Asheville Design Center lead a public input process to begin developing a plan for a controversial downtown lot owned by the city of Asheville. The Asheville Design Center plans to go before Asheville City Council on March 8 with a proposal for the visioning process.

Last month, members of a City Council subcommittee said they wanted to see an overall vision for the property (some call it the “pit of despair”) before moving ahead with a competition to design a park on the lot.

The property along Haywood Street sits across from the U.S. Cellular Center and the Basilica of St. Lawrence. It has been the center of contentious debate on and off for 15 years as various proposals for private development and public parks have come and gone. Asheville City Council’s desires have also ebbed and flowed with political tides. (Right now, the property includes surface parking and a staging area for a hotel construction site at the corner of Page and Battery Park avenues.) But following last year’s City Council election, in which the future of the property was a key issue, it appears the land will developed as a park.

Here’s the ADA statement:

The Asheville Downtown Association today announced that its board of directors has endorsed a public input process, led by the Asheville Design Center, regarding the city-owned parcels near 76 Haywood Street and 39 Page Avenue.

The Asheville Downtown Association committed the initial $5,000 toward moving forward with this input process. Several other donors have come forward with funding as well including Friends of St. Lawrence Green, Downtown Asheville Residential Neighbors (DARN) and local architect Michael McDonough. The city-appointed Downtown Commission has also officially endorsed this process.

In September of 2012, the Asheville Design Center was engaged by Asheville City Council to develop possible opportunities for this space. Over two years, the Asheville Design Center met with dozens of stakeholders, city staff, surrounding property owners and interested parties to discuss alternatives.

“Given the Asheville Design Center’s history, knowledge and experience with this space, we feel they are best suited to lead an independent process that allows all citizens to weigh in on all possible options for the site,” said Byron Greiner, issues committee chair for the Asheville Downtown Association. “We want to ensure that there is a true public input process where all potential outcomes are on the table, as well as discussion of how each would be funded initially and on an ongoing basis.”

On Tuesday, March 8, the Asheville Design Center will go before Asheville City Council with a proposed scope of work and budget to implement this community-driven visioning process.

Project for Public Spaces, a national nonprofit leading the placemaking movement, has agreed to be part of the process as well. The group would host an educational program on placemaking, what makes good public space, how community members can be involved in the vision, and key elements to public space implementation and management.

The Asheville Downtown Association encourages members of the community to contact Asheville City Council to share their support of a community-led visioning process for this integral parcel in downtown Asheville. Council members can be reached at AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.

About the Asheville Design Center
Asheville Design Center is an independent, nonprofit agency founded in 2006 on the belief that everyone deserves good design. Planning builds community, and design shapes our lives every day—yet few of us have easy access to an architect, engineer, landscape architect or planner. Asheville Design Center recruits volunteer professionals to work with communities to develop design solutions that enhance our quality of life. More info at ashevilledesigncenter.org.

About the Asheville Downtown Association
The mission of the Asheville Downtown Association is to be a leader and advocate for the vitality of downtown Asheville. Together, the Asheville Downtown Association board and members support the vitality of downtown through public advocacy, a membership program and community events. The Asheville Downtown Association produces a number of major events in downtown including: Easter on the Green, Downtown After 5, Asheville Oktoberfest, the Pritchard Park Cultural Arts Summer Series and the Asheville Holiday Parade. More at ashevilledowntown.org.

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