Updated: 4 to be interviewed for Asheville Downtown Commission


Update Jan. 20: The four people Asheville City Council plans to interview for the Asheville Downtown Commission slot are Franzi Charen, Sage Turner, Andrew J. Fletcher and Mike Marcus. The announcement was made at Wednesday’s State of Downtown luncheon, sponsored by the Asheville Downtown Association.

Original post Jan. 19: Fourteen people have applied for an open slot on the Asheville Downtown Commission, an advisory board to Asheville City Council focused on the sustainable growth of the city center. (Read all the applications here: New C – Asheville_Downtown_ Commission_applications_2016) It’s one of the most vibrant downtowns in North Carolina, and in their applications, those who asked for consideration said they see the downtown nearing a tipping point with the impact of downtown development and tourism threatening to overwhelm it.

Major downtown developments are required to go before the commission for design review, but the Downtown Commission has limited power. It operates under a “mandatory review, voluntary compliance” model, so even though the commission votes on whether to give its OK to projects, it has little power to require developers to make changes beyond making suggestions. The Downtown Commission also makes its own recommendations, and takes stands on issues affecting downtown, such as graffiti and sidewalk compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Still, that didn’t deter the 14 applicants, who include a downtown property manager, an artist, a musician and a couple of small business owners. All touted their experience and their connection with downtown Asheville in their applications.

Constance Richards, gallery director and curator of the Grand Bohemian Art Gallery, said she’s applying “to play a positive role in the stewardship of the downtown area as it grows in density, popularity and commercial interests and investments.”

Kelly Prime, the owner Relax and Rejuvenate spa, said she’s eager to join: “Because of my life long commitment to social, economic and racial justice work, I find myself drawn to offer my services for solution based ideas and tactics.”

Andrew J. Fletcher, a self-employed musicians and well known downtown busker, said the flourishing city “is made greater by the confluence of many voices, and I offer mine to provide insight and consideration to City Council and staff on matters that are currently under represented in local government.”

Taryn Gentry, owner of Geaux Girl Conceirge, said her experience as an entrepreneur has made her sensitive to the city’s growth and development. “And while that growth if fruitful for many of us, I think it is crucial to maintain balance of preservation and future development.”

John Monroe, a downtown property manager with Southeastern Development of NC, Pack Square Investors, said he’s already had a direct influence on downtown development.

“We have a saying at Southeastern Development that if it’s good for downtown, it’s good for Pack Square investors,” Monroe wrote in his application. “My tenure … has brought about highly recognizable changes to the Pack Square area by leasing to innovative local tenants such as French Broad Luscious Chocolates and Rhubarb. We have also brought our office occupancy into the 90% after the recession.”

Sage Turner, finance and project manager with the French Broad Food Co-Op, said in her application that her financial expertise in helping lead the co-op back from the bring of financial disaster, as well as her ability to work with people, made her a prime candidate.

“I have a reputation in this town as someone who gets involved, gets things done, cares, and can relate to a variety of citizens,” she wrote. “I hope for citizen involvement like that of the WakingGate response, but on a variety of socio-economic needs. We are at a tipping point with demand for growth and the decisions we make in these next few years will define our future. I would like to be at that table as we make these decisions.”

Audra Gaiziunas, owner of the craft brewery management and consulting firm Brewed for Her Ledger, also made a direct correlation between her work experience and her ability to serve on the Downtown Commission.

“Since 100 percent of my income comes from craft beer, and I am extremely social, serving the city of Asheville would be a natural fit,” she wrote.

Here’s the full list of applicants for the Asheville Downtown Commission:

John Menkes, a partner in GM Property

Constance Richards, gallery director and curator of Grand Bohemian Art Gallery

Drea Jackson, design associate with architect Robert Todd and Red House Architecture

Audra Gaiziunas, owner of Brewed for Her Ledger, a management and consulting firm

Rae Geoffrey, associate director of the Diana Wortham Theatre

Kelly Prime, owner Relax and Rejuvenate spa

Carter B. Webb, attorney

Sage Turner, finance and project manager with the French Broad Food Co-Op

Mike Marcus, full-time contractor at The Center for Craft Creativity and Design

Franzi Charen, owner of Hip Replacements and founder of the buy-local campaign Asheville Grown

Andrew J. Fletcher, self-employed musician

Taryn Gentry, owner of Geaux Girl Conceirge

John Monroe, project director of SE Development of NC, Pack Square Investors

John Kloeckner, artist


chris pearce January 25, 2016 - 8:55 am

Sage Turner would be a wonderful addition to the Downtown Commission. I have collaborated with her for over a year and a half as we seek to develop a downtown property(adjacent to the Co-Op) into apartments. Her insight and knowledge of the local market is extraordinary. Her candor and willingness to speak her mind is refreshing. It is clear that she loves and understands Asheville.

Sage Turner January 26, 2016 - 1:23 pm

Thank you, Chris. I appreciate the kind words and echo my love of Asheville, particularly downtown.

Barry Summers January 19, 2016 - 4:25 pm

Franzi has my vote. Small business owner herself, and fierce advocate for other local businesses.

Kimboronni January 19, 2016 - 2:26 pm

Glad to see so many friends and neighbors interested participation!

Andrew Fletcher January 19, 2016 - 1:18 pm

Thanks for posting this. A little more info: Of the 14 that applied, City Council last Tuesday decided to interview four of the applicants. I don’t think it’s necessarily true that applicants who don’t get interviewed are no longer in the running, but I suspect that’s the case.

The four are:

Andrew Fletcher (myself)
Franzi Charen
Sage Turner
Mike Marcus

Orbit DVD January 19, 2016 - 9:23 am


A dude in W Avl January 19, 2016 - 9:09 am

just FYI- Sage turner is a female. So referring to her as “him” is incorrect.

Sage Turner January 19, 2016 - 12:17 pm

Yes, I am a woman. FYI the four being interviewed are myself, Franzi, Mike, and Andrew. All great candidates!

AVLDaddy January 19, 2016 - 2:31 pm

Yeah, you might want to reach out to her. Surprised you haven’t reported already on what the Co-op is planning!

Kevin January 20, 2016 - 10:42 pm

This is Asheville bro. Sometimes lines are blurred. Honest mistake.

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