Issue Focus: City-Owned Land

Land controlled by the City of Asheville is one of our most valuable public assets. Yet conversations about affordable housing and other concerns still mostly rely on market-based responses: selling or giving away public land, for example, to incentivize a developer. What if we kept some of the 1300+ acres owned by the city, instead of giving them up? What could we do for artists, business startups, low-income residents, and the community as a whole? This video focuses on four properties owned or controlled by the city:

 68 HAYWOOD / THE PIT OF DESPAIR / ST LAWRENCE GREEN - Much of the debate has focused on whether there should be a building on the site, ignoring that there has to be at least *some* kind of structure there, due to the steep elevation difference between Page Ave and the lot. My solution? A low artists' space with a green roof, that steps down to the road in front of the Civic Center and incorporates the alley, Page and Haywood St. in front of the Basilica.

RANKIN / CIVIC CENTER GARAGES - It would only eliminate a dozen or so parking spaces to open up the street sides of these garages to small retailers and businesses that struggle with downtown rents. Small, flexible stalls give startups a chance to test out a concept before investing in expensive storefronts. For an example of this being done really well, check out the 7th Street Public Market in Charlotte:

CHARLOTTE STREET ABC - This is the better property for a city-run affordable housing project than the Public Works facility up the street. The city should use affordable housing bond money here, instead.

DUKE LAND / FRENCH BROAD WEST / TOWN BRANCH - Unfortunate high bids to build greenways on these properties leave their future in limbo. The city's Greenway Committee and "AIM Task Force" have been pushing a policy change that allows community groups, led by experienced volunteer trailbuilders, to improve trails on city land that are eventually slated for greenways. We may be decades waiting for funding for planned trails and parks. Why not make them enjoyable in the meantime "the Asheville way" -- through the efforts of committed volunteers? The Hominy Creek Trail in West Asheville is a great example of this.

OTHER PROPERTIES - The city has funding for a community land trust and other valuable uses for public land. Some of them will also be sold or used for other purposes, as makes sense. Yet it's hard to imagine the current market addressing Asheville's big concerns about affordability or independent business support, say, without a much more serious intervention. Fortunately, there is one: Where the public owns valuable land, we can use it for good. Doesn't that make sense?

Read more at, and please offer your thoughts in the comments.