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.

This webpage will continue to be updated regularly.



Happening Now

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

Current Initiatives:

  • Expanded opportunities for flexible use of private property – launched 5/22
  • Pedestrian-only streets to support peaceful protesting and ensure pedestrian safetylaunched 6/8
  • Expanded flexibility for use of sidewalkslaunched 6/5
    • Businesses can request to use areas of adjacent public sidewalk to expand operations (i.e. seating, merchandise display) in alignment with public health guidelines. Fill out this online form to request expanded use of sidewalk space. Note that 6 feet of pedestrian passageway must be maintained. *Requests that fall within the temporary outdoor expansion guidelines for Sidewalks are not subject to a formal permit process.
    • Announcement details are here
  • Creation of “parklets” in on-street parking spaces for dining and merchandiselaunched 6/19

All application forms can also be found on the Development Portal.

parklet near Urban Orchard parklet parklet

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 visit the project’s Public Input page here.


COVID-19 Resources

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

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


Information and Application Materials



Contact the team at


Updated 7/31/2020