Public Space Usage During COVID-19: Supporting Asheville’s Recovery

open sign written in chalkProtecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public is the City of Asheville’s top priority. The City of Asheville is committed to supporting and responding to the changing needs of the community during the COVID-19 crisis and through phases of recovery. With consideration for physical distancing and other safety measures implemented by public health officials, the City is exploring ways to use shared public spaces – like streets, sidewalks, parking areas and parks – differently, to support economic recovery and other community needs. This work relies on collaboration, communication and flexibility across sectors of government, business and community.

City staff and City Council have received great ideas and proposals. Staff is tracking and reviewing recommendations along with current and emerging best practices from other cities to inform next steps.

It is critical that planning and implementation for uses of public space is equitable and inclusive. Together, we can improve our collective future by making space at the table for a more diverse set of voices, neighborhoods and partners in those efforts. Intentional and strategic community engagement will be key in the coming months.

Initiatives will be rolled-out incrementally for initial trial periods. Public feedback will be critical to making adjustments, considering expansion and ensuring success.

May 22 Press Release – City of Asheville launches curbside pick-up program and expands flexibility for business use of private lots

This webpage will continue to be updated regularly as more details are established, including stages of implementation and public engagement.


Happening Now

The City has formed an interdepartmental team to help the community by expanding opportunities to use public space in alignment with public health guidance.

Initiatives currently being pursued include:

  • Curbside pick-up zones in commercial districts – launched 5/22 – provide feedback on the program here.
  • Expanded opportunities for flexible use of private property – launched 5/22
  • Expanded use of sidewalks and the creation of “parklets” in on-street parking spaces for dining and merchandise – launching week of June 1
  • Pedestrian zones and/or temporary shared spaces for commerce and recreation – launching early July

Businesses can request to use their private parking lots, landscape areas, and walkways to expand operations in alignment with public health guidelines. The online request form provides a simple process for businesses to request a temporary outdoor expansion and for the city to share important safety guidelines. Requests that fall within the the temporary outdoor expansion guidelines are not subject to a formal permit process.

Current Guiding Principles and Goals:

  • Align with the guidance of state and local public health agencies
  • Support the recovery of our local economy and the overall vitality of Asheville’s commercial districts
  • Expand opportunities for safe public access to businesses and services
  • Be flexible to accommodate the changing operational needs of businesses and organizations
  • Introduce new or different uses of public space that support the health, safety and well-being of our community
  • Provide a framework that incorporates opportunities for implementation across varied geographic areas and equitable engagement in decision-making
  • Consider longer-term implementation of successful tools and strategies
  • Recognize that balancing the needs and uses of public space often requires compromise
  • Aim to maximize public benefit while 1) prioritizing responsiveness to the recovery needs specific to COVID-19 and 2) using an equity lens to weigh particular uses over others.
  • Make sure initiatives can respond quickly to the community’s needs without compromising public safety
  • Use public resources responsibly

How Can I Submit Ideas or Feedback?

Please send ideas, questions or feedback to More tools for engagement will be rolled for each initiative.


COVID-19 Resources

Find up to date information on COVID-19 in Buncombe County at 

Phase I guidance from Buncombe County is available here.
Phase II guidance from North Carolina DHHS is available here. 

Physical Distancing Guidance

The risk of  transmission of COVID-19 is based upon close contact criteria.  There are two components to close contact:

  1. The physical distance between two people
  2. The duration of time spent less than 6 feet apart

Individuals briefly passing one another on the sidewalk have a low risk for transmission. This risk is reduced much further if both those people are wearing face coverings.

People walking together in a group down the sidewalk at less than 6ft distance have a greater risk, which again can be reduced by wearing face coverings.

Please be sure to follow the 3 W’s.

Current City of Asheville Measures to Support Businesses with Recovery





Contact the team at


Updated 5/27/2020