East of the Riverway initiative explores sustainable development alternatives

On March 25, the City of Asheville issued a Request for Proposals for a study for alternatives to gentrification in the East of the Riverway area. The RFP marks a next big step in a planning project focused on supporting a collaborative and concerted revitalization project that also promotes sustainable development.

“What we are talking about is affordability,” says Community Development Director Jeff Staudinger. “As much of the city changes and develops, there are a lot of people in this area who love their community and who are concerned that it will change in a way that excludes them.”

The East of the Riverway area is made up of roughly 1,100 acres to the east of the French Broad River and stretches from Hilliard Avenue south to Meadow Road and the Swannanoa River. It includes Asheville’s River Arts District and the WECAN, South French Broad, Walton Street, Livingston Street and Erskine neighborhoods.

The East of the Riverway Sustainable Multimodal Neighborhood model combines neighborhood sustainability, infill development and multi-modal transportation options to address inequity that historically arises from traditional urban development scenarios. Increased housing choices, and better access to transportation and entrepreneurial opportunity all have the potential to encourage economically diverse neighborhoods and livable communities.

Asheville City Council has made affordable housing and multimodal transportation top priorities in its strategic goals.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the City of Asheville an $850,000 Tiger II grant for use in the East of the Riverway planning process.

With new development like the New Belgium Brewery on the way, and with imminent development of greenway routes, the East of the Riverway area is in the spotlight both for growth and the need for strategies that maintain housing affordability for existing neighborhood residents.

Throughout 2012 and 2013, the community participated in surveys, focus groups and input meetings to explore transportation needs and the preservation of neighborhood history. On March 18, city planning staff and the planning study consulting teams met with over 70 community members to explain how the voices of community members factored into the planning process and directly influenced the proposed transportation and economic improvements.

That meeting marked the beginning of the next stage of the East of the Riverway Livable Communities initiative. City planners have issued a Request for Proposals for alternatives to gentrification and to put into play the real solutions for sustainable growth.

Proposals for alternatives could take several directions, from artist live-work housing and Community Land Trusts to Co-Housing and cooperative property ownership. These are the kinds of ideas that can be examined as possible tools to help ensure long-term affordability for existing stakeholders.