Proposed Asheville City Council plan for River Arts District: Visitor’s center, parking garage, open space, more

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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rad_development_plan_2014The Asheville River Arts district is quickly changing. The announcement a couple of years ago that New Belgium Brewing had picked a location just across the French Broad River from the RAD sped up the pace of the change that had already been morphing a run-down industrial district into a hip haven for artists, shop owners and restauranteurs.

Now Asheville City Council is poised to step in with a formal plan that will guide growth. That plan, referenced here and scheduled to be voted on at council’s meeting tonight, goes hand-in-hand with a N.C. Department of Transportation plan to realign Riverside Drive and do some other improvements.

Here are the highlights of City Council’s plan, which I’ve highlighted for emphasis:

Plan Summary
The Riverside Drive Development Plan (RDDP):
– Recommends that the preferred renovation strategy for 14 Riverside Drive- an existing 1900 square foot building just to the north of 12 Bones restaurant- revolve around providing visitor amenities such as public restrooms and district information, and providing a place where one can always find some arts and culture programming happening
– Recommends an open space concept plan for several acres of city owned riverfront, just south and north of existing Jean Webb Park, that aligns with the RADTIP plans, leverages the arts and culture character of the district, and provides attractive
improvements to stormwater management/water quality
– Presents four massing scenarios (with corresponding fiscal analyses sketches) for new mixed-use construction, centered around the historic smokestack and former Ice House site, that suggest the potential direction for a feature redevelopment partnership
– Suggests improvements in circulation, arts and culture, preservation, and environmental stewardship that helps tie the redevelopment effort together.

Key Recommendations/Policy Considerations from the Plan
The consultants have identified the following as integral to the success of the plan:
– RADTIP implementation

– Careful development of riverfront open space amenities and greenway between 12 Bones and the Captain Bowen Bridge

– Creation of better connections between New Belgium Brewing and Riverside Drive open

– Installation of River District Wayfinding and Orientation for visitors

– Design and construction of a parking garage that connects to Roberts Street from Riverside Drive

– Development of better regulations for the area such as a Form Based Code with design guidelines

– Speedy renovation of 14 Riverside Drive as a community and visitor resource

– Maximizing the City’s development potential on property designated for higher density mixed use buildings

– Encouraging partnerships with nearby landowner and stakeholders to leverage the City’s land resource and create better development opportunities.

There’s much more about “community engagement” and “strategic operating plans,” but you can click over to read all that. This is an important plan, with City Council now clearly looking beyond the city’s central business district as a powerful economic engine.

More here on other changes in Asheville’s River Arts District, including the big RAD Lofts project and the gentrification of nearby neighborhoods.

Update: Asheville City Councilman Gordon Smith adds this regarding RAD development/economic incentives discussion on FB:

You can look forward to a broad menu of policies coming forward this autumn. In mid-October, City Council will hold a worksession to outline the options. They include, but are not limited to: Residential Density increases on Commercial Corridors, turning over city-owned land to Affordable Housing providers, fully funding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, River District Live/Work space. I hope to set some hard targets for the number of units the city will help create or support. Those targets will be based on a Housing Needs Assessment and Market Analysis that will be completed this month. Stay tuned, and please ask advocates of affordable housing to contact their city council, write letters to the editor, and otherwise make some noise.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. smiley September 19, 2014

    As Yogi Berra said, “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

  2. mmmm September 10, 2014

    Readying the some of the proposed uses for that space of land makes me sick. a “waterfront hotel” , its bad enough they passed the huge unaffordable apartment building going down the street. Seriously? What a joke. These people couldnt make a blank wall look pretty.

  3. mike September 10, 2014

    people like that space because its just land and you can see the river. there doesnt need to be anything more than a greenway there. get your head straight aville council.

  4. mike September 10, 2014

    goodness, I wish some on one the council knew how to us land effectively, maybe most of the Asheville council members are from florida. what a waste of land.

  5. ashelol September 9, 2014

    looks like the city is only interested in kicking out artists and building tourist traps for florida natives. gentrification sucks.

  6. Muprhy September 9, 2014

    There certainly seems to be an abundance of proposed outdoor performance spaces coming to the area: this plan suggests several along the river and there are at least a handful of private proposals as well – the Salvage Station, that area where they have River Music, New Belgium is/was planning an outdoor stage area…

    1. Matt September 9, 2014

      Yeah, it’s all part of the surge in tourism here in Asheville.

      1. indie September 10, 2014

        Yeah, locals don’t go to outdoor events.


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