Advisory Committee tour part of community process for river district redesign

On October 29, an advisory committee made up of members from a diverse selection of stakeholder organizations got a first hand look at the challenges and opportunities in creating a riverway redevelopment plan in the City of Asheville’s River District.

For three hours, the Advisory Committee for the Wilma Dykeman Riverway River Arts District Section visited key locations within the district that could play a large part in connecting greenways, sidewalks and parks as well as new business and transportation corridors there. The tour marked the beginning of a series of meetings for the group, which will lend its input and community perspectives to the design process.

With stops at locations like Jean Webb Park, Riverview Station, and Depot Studios, the tour was designed to give a glimpse into the kinds of concerns a redesign must address, including stormwater management, historic preservation, brownfield sites and right-of-way access for bike lanes. Additional visits to areas like Carrier Park showcased the successful results of riverside redesign, especially in the case of the French Broad Greenway extension, which relied on the partnership and cooperation of multiple property owners for its success.

The tour was one key step in keeping a steady flow of public input and community outreach in the formative stages of the RiverWay plan, says Stephanie Pankiewicz, who was selected by the City of Asheville to head up the public involvement process. The design contract, awarded to Wilbur Smith and Associates by the City of Asheville and announced at the design launch in June, includes a detailed stakeholder and public process, she notes. That design plan will be necessary to apply for funding for the restructuring of the corridor, and the design process itself is paid for by a federal appropriation channeled through the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Pankiewicz says the outreach process will include additional meetings over the next few months with area business and property owners, advocacy and community groups, as well as utility providers. November will see a series of public meetings to collect even more input, Pankiewicz says.

Community input is a key priority for the city during the formation of a design plan, says Stephanie Monson, Urban Planner for the City of Asheville’s Office of Economic Development, who along with Transportation Planner Dan Baechtold, was available to answer questions on River Arts District tour.