Blog :: 07-2007

Merrimon Update

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7/23/2007 - Merrimon Update
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ASHEVILLE - Two 13-story buildings would rise on the western side of busy Merrimon Avenue under plans for a mixed-use development now being put together for the former Deal MotorCars property.

Those buildings would be among several structures containing about 385 housing units, a 150-room hotel and retail and office space.

The project would be a dramatic increase in density for the 8.5-acre site, one that members of the team putting the proposal together said is called for by the city's long-range development plan. Developers would add turning lanes and a signal to offset traffic impacts.

Marty Kocot, a local planner who is helping put the project together, called it a "vertical neighborhood" that would contain a number of different uses that would allow residents to walk to shop or to work, either in the neighborhood itself or downtown.

Local investors bought the Deal property for $7.2 million in mid-2005 in anticipation of the auto dealership's move this year to Brevard Road. Stephen Arnsdorff, a real estate investor based in Chattanooga, Tenn., has joined original buyers Chris Peterson, a former city councilman; accountant Foster Shriner; and Asheville Waste Paper owners Cam and Annette Pace. They have added some small parcels to the Deal property.

Developers have been discussing plans for the property with neighbors for several weeks and say they may make some changes in response to neighborhood concerns before a city committee reviews the project next month. That would be the first public step in a process that would eventually require City Council approval.

The project would take four to five years to build, Arnsdorff said, and is divided into two phases.

Neighbors respond

Reactions Monday among a few people affected were mixed.

Hendersonville resident Lindsay Raiford, who owns a house near the site, said the proposal "sounds like a very reasonable project." She likes a layout that shows commercial uses closest to Merrimon while the western side of the property would contain two- and three-story town houses and a small park.

Neighborhood resident Heather Rayburn called the plan "disgusting."

"It lacks human scale. It lacks integration with the neighborhood. It doesn't do anything for the community that's already there," she said.

Neighborhood resident Dale James was somewhere in the middle. He said it is "inevitable" that the property would be developed. He likes much of what he has seen but is concerned about the height of buildings and traffic.

With the height and density proposed, "They're bringing downtown to Merrimon Avenue," he said.

In the plan

Kocot and Arnsdorff said the project is just the kind of development envisioned for the property by the city's 2025 plan - more dense development in mixed-use projects.

The mixed-use character of the proposal reduces the number of vehicle trips the project will generate and turn lanes, the signal and other improvements will offset the impact of additional cars, Arnsdorff said.

"Merrimon Avenue is what it is. We're not making it any worse than what it is," he said.

Developers would extend Broad Street a block west through the property and plan a pedestrian-oriented plaza in its interior and other amenities for those on foot. Much of the parking for the site would be underground.

The taller buildings have been placed so there is some distance between them and single-family homes in the neighborhood, Arnsdorff said.

The range of height of the buildings is something like someone standing near the Civic Center and looking at the Basilica of St. Lawrence, Battery Park Apartments and the Grove Arcade might see, said project landscape architect Stephanie Pankiewicz.

Much of the property is zoned highway business, which is designed to accommodate big-box retail stores and strip shopping centers. Developers are asking for a rezoning to the city's urban village district

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North Asheville tailgate market moving to UNC Asheville

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7/20/2007 - North Asheville tailgate market moving to UNC Asheville
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ASHEVILLE - The North Asheville Tailgate Market, a Saturday morning institution for those who love fresh produce and flowers, will relocate to UNC Asheville beginning Aug. 4.

The area's oldest and largest producer-only farmers' market continues to expand and the move to UNC Asheville will provide additional space for local farmers to sell their products and more parking for customers, said Tom Elmore, market co-manager.

The market, which has had three previous locations, currently uses the parking area behind Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company on Merrimon Avenue. "They came to the rescue when we were forced to leave our previous site," said Cathy Osada, market co-manager. "They have been very generous with their time and space over the years, but we just outgrew their facility."

The market, which will be located in a large tiered parking lot near the entrance to the campus, will continue to operate on Saturdays only; market hours are 7 a.m. to noon, through early December.

To visit the tailgate market's new location, enter the UNC Asheville campus at the traffic circle on W.T. Weaver Boulevard. Travel up the main drive and take the first right at the blue sign that reads Commuter/Faculty-Staff Parking Lot C. A campus map is available at www.unca.edu/campusmap/Summer_Map.pdf.

"We are very pleased to be part of a collaboration that benefits our local growers, our community and our students," said UNC Asheville Chancellor Anne Ponder. "We anticipate multiple opportunities for our students studying food consumerism and nutrition, and those doing undergraduate research in health and wellness, economics and environmental studies."

 

by ACT

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Ashes of Chicken Hill factory yield paragon of New Urban design

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7/19/2007 - Ashes of Chicken Hill factory yield paragon of New Urban design
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Burlington, Sayles, Enka, Beacon; Chicken Hill, Cleghorn, Champion. These mill villages flourished three generations ago in this region. Now, they're extinct.

They emerged in the railroad era as a means by which to attract and control rural labor in the industrializing South. They came to an end after World War II, for the most part, as factories faced a more independent work force and sold off their homes.

Many former residents of the mill villages remember them fondly, for, despite the class structure and the sometimes deplorable working conditions in the mills, the villages provided community.

In 1907, Congress went after child labor abuses in mills. A commission hired Thomas Robinson Dawley, among others, to investigate, and Dawley made Asheville his first stop, interviewing cotton mill workers living on Chicken Hill. He engaged a charity worker to help him find sorry cases. She admitted knowing few on relief because "the mill management preferred taking care of their own poor."

However, there was a widow with five children who left her farm to work at the mill and applied for relief during the interim. Dawley recorded her testimony in his 1912 book, "The Child that Toileth Not,"

"I reckon we'll git on all right now," she said. "Three o' th' kids got jobs in th' mill. Sure they don't earn much, but they don't wourk mor' an half the time. ... Th' wourk tain't nothin' like wourkin' on th' farm. I got no rest when I war a kid."

The cotton mill closed in 1949. Three-quarters of the housing fell to highway-building and road-widening projects. Yet a community is arising in the Chicken Hill district that reflects a new era and represents one of the most dramatic changes in Asheville's urban landscape in decades.

A neighborhood that no one wanted'

Nine years ago, Whit Rylee, a historic preservation developer, got the ball rolling with a vision - not unlike those of E.W. Grove in the Grove Arcade area and John Lantzius in Lexington Park. Growing up in Sarasota, Fla., Rylee witnessed and participated in his mother's pioneer vision for Laurel Park. Her renovations had won downtown improvement awards.

It was on vacations that Rylee had found Western North Carolina. His elementary school principal, Owen Woodyard, took Whit and other boys camping in Brevard.

Rylee moved to West Asheville in 1998 with his eye on Montford, but gentrification had inflated prices there. One day, bicycling to town, he rode up West Haywood Street rather than the steeper Club Street, and saw a "for sale" sign on The Parsonage, a 1907 Arts and Crafts house in disrepair.

Rylee renovated it, sold it to Gail and Brian McCarthy, of Highwater Clay, and won a Griffin Award from the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County for the Bed & Breakfast.

"Five years ago, Chicken Hill was still a neighborhood that no one wanted," Rylee says. After Rylee renovated two more houses, opinion began to change. Efforts in the area by RiverLink, Mountain Housing Opportunities and the West End/Clingman Neighb-orhood helped.

Rylee then bought the old Earle-Chesterfield Mill site at 1 Roberts St. Since 1905, Chesterfield Mill had made flour and then feed from mountain-grown grain and had added a chicken hatchery before closing down in 1971. The factory building burned down in 1995.

It is here where the phoenix rises. Rylee's firm, Urvana L.L.C., hired Jaime Correa and Associates, the group that had executed the West End/Clingman neighborhood plan in 2000. Correa's New Urbanism addresses "many of the ills of current suburban sprawl patterns while returning to the cherished concept of a compact, close-knit community," the Chicken Hill Web site states.

Environmentally sensitive design, live-work spaces, plazas and walkways that lead to vistas and community gardens are only part of the innovative plan for the nine-building complex and 2.3 acre Chicken Hill site. Correa and collaborators, whose brainstorming charette wrapped up Monday, also figure on using industrial shapes and materials in artful ways, and incorporating fun.

According to plan, a public bowling alley will be built below three of the buildings, connecting to former Chesterfield Mill silos. The silos will function as cocktail lounges with windows looking out on bowlers.

Local residential developers such as Bill McCurdy are buying in. McCurdy's Sun Construction and Realty Company has bought six lots on West Haywood Street for medium-priced homes. The railroad will continue to rumble by (though train whistles might yield to a quiet zone) as the Chicken Hill project seeks to tu rn a respect for history into a celebration of old-style, European-type urban community. "The project is nostalgic for the future," Correa says.

Rob Neufeld's local history feature, "Visiting Our Past," runs Thursdays in the Your News section. He is the author of the book "A Popular History of Western North Carolina." Contact him at RNeufeld@charter.net or 768-2665.

 

by ACT

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