So far, the only information to be released about the Riverside Drive Riverfront Redevelopment Plan has been about the greenway, open space and New Belgium.  All of these sound wonderful but we wanted to point out the other plans the City of Asheville has in store that will inevitably push out the artists and make this your next Biltmore Park.  You can read the entire plan that was adopted in August 2014 here:  Riverside Drive Redevelopment Plan

Just the facts from the Riverside Drive Redevelopment Plan, pages are noted:

Office and Retail Rental Rates to go up, up, up
  • Expected rental rates after development in the River Arts District will be $32/square foot for retail (pg 56). Current average rate is $17.67/sq ft.  See here.
  • Expected office rental rates will be $28/square foot.   Current average rate in downtown Asheville is $16/sq ft. See here.
According to the Alternatives to Gentrification study that was released June 2014, 71 artists were surveyed.  The average rent was $12/square foot.  The median rent was $333.  Artists considered affordable rent to be $6 - $12/sf.  Well, get ready to get kicked out.

"Maximize Development Potential" (pg. 8)
  • "RDDP endorses maximizing development potential as the most efficient way to catalyze additional economic opportunities throughout RAD" (pg. 8).  In other words, how to make the most money.
  • If the City just "played by the rules" and developed existing public land there is a 6% return on investment.  
  • If the City, however, adds a hotel and other developments, there is a 22% return on investment.
Potential Planned Development Options:  If the form based code is along the River as planned, they could and have in the plan:
  • 227 Room Hotel directly on the French Broad River (see pg 19) on a 29,132 square foot space
  • 59 Apartments (pg 65)
  • 70 Condos (pg 65)
  • 10 Restaurants/Eateries
  • 30 Retail spaces
  • 61,980 Office square feet
Total projected NET (after costs) cash flow: $72Million. Click on image below to see enlarged graphic - This graphic is from the Riverside Redevelopment Plan:

Area D is the planned hotel.

How to get rid of current tenants to make way for this development?
Meet the building code or demolish (pg 34) as suggested in the Plan:
"What if RAD were to become a City/County pilot area in which all buildings and open spaces were either a) brought up to code or b) demolished? This idea has a surprising amount of QUIET support - and it might include provisions for land swaps that would remove uses inappropriate in RAD." (pg. 34)
Wow!  This is already happening because the City received draft findings of this plan well before August 2014 and immediately began work implementing:
"ASHEVILLE – The city on Monday cut the electricity to eight buildings in the River Arts District and requested a disconnection of gas services, said Shannon Tuch, director of development services.
The city cited various code violations and safety concerns for the structures at 339 Old Lyman St. Tenants rent space in the buildings from property owner Robert Camille and run a variety of operations, including a dance studio, art studios and a woodworking shop." (July 14, 2014, Citizen-Times, "City of Asheville shuts down RAD buildings")
Artists were kicked out without notice.

Projected Costs of the Plan (Who pays for the costs?  The city would give incentives as they already have to developers): See pages 69 and 70 of the Plan.
  • Play By the Rules = If the City makes no changes and just develops on their current available parcels, the cost of these developments is projected at $42 Million.
  • Implement Form Based Code = This increases the amount of development that can occur, so costs go up. The estimated cost to develop would be $61 Million.
  • Add Riverfront Hotel = This dramatically increases costs to $94 Million
  • Maximize Partnerships = In other words, give development incentives. The cost jumps to $123 Million.
Problems identified in the Plan:
  • Parking is an issue.  There isn't much. But, as stated in last night's AARRC meeting when this issue was raised, the answer was "No city has ample parking." Parking would be disbursed to surrounding neighborhoods.  
  • Only 50,000 square feet of the 10 acres along one-half of the Riverside Drive are suitable for new construction (pg. 10)  "How can this development potential be maximized?"
  • All city parcels are within the 100-year and 500-year flood plain (pg. 13)  In fact, 74% of RAD properties are within 100-year flood plain.
  • Current zoning regulations restrict retail space. Must change this! (pg. 13)
  • Riverside Drive must be straightened to maximize development potential (pg. 13)

The biggest problem with all this development is the flooding issue.  You can't stop nature.

  • This plan even cites flooding as a problem  "A fire in 1915 and a flood the following year completely destroyed Riverside Park.  It was never rebuilt". (pg. 40)
  • According to this article about the flood in 1916, what we call today, the River Arts District, was a bustling busy place full of businesses and residences.  This was where the main railroad was and how people came into the City. Everyone was shuttled to downtown from the River Arts area.
  • The flood of 1916 had huge financial impact as well as cost the lives of 29 people: "Property damage was estimated at about $3 million, which would equate to $66,874,077.67 in today's dollar." (Article
So, while we are not against development, greenways, open space, etc., we are against the City turning back the hands of time and putting businesses and lives back at risk by recreating a situation that could be disastrous. The City needs to prove that it has put into place preventive measures. If not, who will pay?

"RAD is poised to become the City's and the County's next area for focused revitalization, rehabilitation.... especially given the New Belgium brewery's $135 million investment just across the River." (pg 1)

Related Articles:
Insider Trading? RAD: The Company to Buy and Sell
12 Bones Isn't the Only Property to be Redrawn or Acquired
RAD Lofts Approved by the AARRC

1 comment:

  1. You should check with Pattiy Tourno whose Curve Studios are strategically unaffected. It's also my understanding that she is on the redevelopment board and has been quietly advising the city behind the scenes on what to do.