With a new year comes new programs, facility improvements and projects to improve our community.
Here’s a look ahead at Asheville City government initiatives in 2019.
Red Pandas exhibit to open
Two cute red pandas will take up residence at the WNC Nature Center this year. The new red panda exhibit will open to the public on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. Find details here.
Work on the Red Panda Exhibit and Breeding Project began in 2018, following fundraising by the Friends of the WNC Nature Center as well as corporate and private donations. In April 2018, City Council appropriated $184,820 for the construction of the red panda exhibit. Close ancestors of the red pandas inhabited our mountains thousands of years ago and bringing them to the Nature Center is the next development of the Prehistoric Appalachia-themed area of the park.
ART buses go electric
Five new zero-emission electric buses will join the ART bus fleet! Three of them were delivered in December, with another two to come in February. During the training phase you will see them “shadowing” our ART buses in service, that is driving behind them but not picking up passengers. The buses were manufactured by Greenville, S.C.-based Proterra, a leader in the design and manufacture of zero-emission electric buses.
The exact timing of when the new electric buses will go into service is dependent on completion of the installation of the charging stations and training activities, but is expected in early 2019.
Also up for the new year: The ART Transit Station, 49 Coxe Ave., will undergo renovation.
Two key leadership positions to be filled
In 2019, the City of Asheville will hire a police chief to replace the departing APD Chief Tammy Hooper. City Manager Debra Campbell will make that hire.
Also in the new year, Asheville City Council will hire a new city attorney to replace Robin Currin, who accepted a position as Raleigh’s City Attorney. The city attorney position is one of three positions hired directly by Council. The other two include the City Manager and City Clerk positions.
Greenways gain momentum
- Construction is slated to begin in spring 2019 on the French Broad River West Bank Greenway, a 1-mile stretch that will connect to French Broad River Park on one end and the existing half-mile French Broad River West Greenway that runs by New Belgium Brewing.
- French Broad River East Bank Greenway, a 2.2-mile greenway, is under construction as part of the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project (RADTIP).
- Construction on the Town Branch Greenway, a ¾-mile greenway in the Southside neighborhood in 2019. That greenway will incorporate interpretive markers that honors the neighborhood’s history before urban renewal.
- A Greenways Masterplan process will begin in 2019.
Charlotte Street road improvement project
In 2019, the community will be asked to help with the design and implementation of spot neighborhood safety, pedestrian, and streetscape improvements along the Charlotte Street Corridor. The project will help facilitate:
- Improved bicycle facilities and bicycle connectivity
- Improved pedestrian facilities and pedestrian connectivity
- Improved connectivity within the district
- Improved stormwater facilities along the corridor
At the same time the City will evaluate and potentially adjust the zoning and the Charlotte Street Transitional Overlay district adjacent to the Charlotte Street corridor.
Keep up with developments at ashevillenc.gov/charlottestreet.
Climate Sustainability rollout and renewable energy planning
The Office of Sustainability will work on two high-profile projects in 2019. The first is the planned rollout of the Climate Sustainability database and community guide. Multiple City departments and UNCA’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) have collaborated on pulling together the data and strategies to help our community form resiliency against climate threats due to increased weather events, such as floods that lead to landslides and drought that can lead to wildfires. Look for online information and a public education rollout this year. Find more information on this Climate Sustainability project at this link.
The Office of Sustainability will also work with Buncombe County on planning for a renewable energy initiative. At its Oct. 23 meeting, City Council adopted a resolution calling for the City of Asheville to power itself with 100% renewable energy by the year 2030. Working with Buncombe County, the City will engage the community to discuss what that might look like, keeping in mind input on renewables already gathered during the Comprehensive Plan Update process.
Steps toward addition of Fire Station 13
An emergency response void exists between downtown and north Asheville. A new fire station in this location would improve outcomes of emergency situations and improve the Asheville Fire Department’s standard of coverage.
The station will be constructed on land acquired by the City of Asheville on Broadway (between Mount Clare Avenue and Woodrow Avenue) recorded on July 8, 2014, at the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, Book 140, Page 172.
A contract has been signed with ADW Construction and great things are about to happen in 2019! Preliminary meetings for Fire Station #13 are taking place now and will continue into 2019 to include discussions about pre-design, community input, schematic design and development to competing construction documents.
Linwood Crump Shiloh Center repairs
The Linwood Crump Shiloh Center serves south Asheville communities by providing athletic courts and fields, community meeting spaces, classrooms, outdoor playgrounds and walking trails.
Several repairs and upgrades to the center are planned in 2019, including a new roof, repair of the masonry joints, cleaning and sealing the masonry block and adding fall protection to the roof of the building which will protect the maintenance staff.
This project has been publicly bid and is currently under contract. Work will start in late winter/early spring and should be completed by summer. After the roof replacement project, other improvements are planned for the center, including flooring upgrades and replacements.
First affordable housing site to be announced
$25 million for affordable housing was part of three bond initiatives approved by Asheville voters in 2016. This bond funding will enable the City to repurpose City-owned land for development that supports housing affordability. A lot of study has gone into which City-owned parcels may be appropriate for affordable housing development. That has included feasibility studies to assess how many housing units can be developed on identified sites and potential market conditions for mixed use development. The results of the due diligence study are summarized below.
- 319 Biltmore Ave. — This site has the potential to create housing options with a range of affordability and improve connectivity in a growing neighborhood that includes Lee Walker Heights; work to solicit developers for this site can begin immediately.
- 171-179 S. Charlotte St. — This site poses a significant opportunity to use housing development — in concert with the community — to plan and grow a neighborhood impacted by urban renewal. Future development can reconnect the East End community to the Central Business District and make S. Charlotte Street safer for residents, bicyclists and pedestrians. In order to realize this opportunity, existing City Operations must be relocated in a strategic and sustainable manner.
- 91 Riverside Drive — This site provides an opportunity to create artist housing and strengthen the character and economic vitality of the River Arts District.
The next step is to create an implementation plan for the redevelopment of each property. Keep up with developments at this link.
More bond projects coming our way
The City is heading into year three of the seven-year bond projects approved by voters in 2016. Some high-profile projects in 2019 will include the Haywood Street Streetscape, Richmond Hill Park renovation and sport courts renovations, phase 2. Keep up with bond projects, including what phase a project is in, how much has been spent and when a project is scheduled at the City’s Capital Projects and Bond Projects Dashboard.