The City of Asheville is committed to a collaborative and well-reasoned approach to identifying a suitable site for Duke Energy’s rebuild of the downtown electrical substation, currently located on Duke Energy property behind the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville. The rebuild of the substation is critical to the power reliability of the area. Recently, City staff engaged in an internal planning process to analyze the concepts proposed to date and develop additional feasible concepts for the downtown substation that meet the needs of the Community, the City, and Duke Energy.
City staff held a site visit and a planning charrette to discuss key project criteria and evaluate and develop additional concepts for the substation. The following project guiding principles informed the goal identification, evaluation, and concept development process:
- Provide reliable electricity by rebuilding the aging substation.
- Maintain the option to maintain and/or renovate the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium.
- Design the site so that there is minimal tree impact.
- Develop design elements that are in keeping with the surrounding area.
- Ensure that if the site design requires a temporary substation, it is portable with no foundations.
The charrette and work session discussions focused on location and layout concepts for the substation with the understanding that design elements will be refined after the concepts have been further developed. During the charrette and in subsequent work sessions, staff identified and refined foundational project elements as well as additional goals. These project goals and criteria were applied to all of the concepts in order to evaluate them effectively.
Staff developed and evaluated additional concepts that are in keeping with the guiding principles and project goals, however, the additional concepts are still in development and require further analysis to determine feasibility. Staff also analyzed the concepts that had been discussed previously which included the rebuild-in-place concept and the land exchange concept in order to effectively evaluate all of the concepts developed to date.
Staff reviewed, refined, and vetted the concepts with Duke Energy on October 27, 2022, to assess concept feasibility.
City staff continues to work with Duke Energy to conduct additional feasibility and review of concepts for the substation. Pending further concept development and analysis, the City of Asheville and Duke Energy will hold an informational meeting in late January.
Duke Energy’s current downtown substation is over 60 years old and needs to be replaced to accommodate the increasing utility needs of our downtown businesses and residents and continue to provide reliable electricity.
Duke Energy is working with the City to explore options to build a new substation. City Council approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that allowed Duke Energy to conduct environmental and other appropriate testing on the properties to explore the feasibility of building a new substation on the City’s 57 Rankin Avenue property.
The MOU established a good faith effort by both the City and Duke to engage with the community, coordinate testing activities to minimize the impact on downtown businesses and residents, and work to mitigate visual impacts and remain consistent with the character of the surrounding neighborhood. The City of Asheville has concluded that the intent of the Memorandum of Understanding adopted in September 2021 allowing Duke Energy to explore the concept of moving the current substation to City-owned land currently used as a surface parking lot, has been fulfilled. Specifically:
- Duke Energy was granted a right of entry allowing Duke to conduct environmental and other appropriate testing on the properties to see whether it was possible to build the new substation on the City’s property on Rankin Avenue.
- The City of Asheville and Duke Energy coordinated testing activities to minimize the impact on downtown businesses and residents, and
- Duke Energy, with support from the City of Asheville, participated in community engagement with surrounding stakeholders to explore mitigation of visual impacts to remain consistent with the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
In August, the City of Asheville and Duke Energy paused engagement phases to allow for further consideration to address options and community input. Utilizing the input received to date, staff from both the City of Asheville and Duke Energy are reviewing possible options for Duke’s rebuild of the current substation. The review is expected to be complete by November at which time Duke Energy and the City of Asheville will reschedule community meetings tentatively to occur in November or December 2022.
October 2022 – Present: City staff and Duke Energy continue to explore and assess the feasibility of substation options.
August – October 2022: City staff evaluated and developed concepts for the downtown substation. Additional concept evaluation with Duke Energy is needed to assess feasibility.
August 9, 2022: Engagement phases paused to allow for further consideration to address options and community input.
July 21, 2022: Duke Energy representatives attended the Design Review Committee for an informal review. The committee discussed the project and provided initial feedback.
July 5, 2022: City staff and Duke Energy representatives attended the Urban Forestry Commission for an informal discussion of the project.
April 2022: Duke launched the public communication phase of the project. See Duke’s project website for more information.
November 2021: Duke Energy conducted site investigations such as soil borings and environmental phase one testing on 57 Rankin Avenue.
October 2021: The City and Duke Energy finalized the MOU. The City advised Duke to notify residents and businesses downtown who could be impacted by Duke’s site investigations.
September 28, 2021: City Council passed resolution no. 21-210 to enter into an MOU between Duke Energy and the City of Asheville to explore a land exchange to rebuild the existing substation across the street on City property at 57 Rankin Avenue and in return, grant the Duke-owned land next to the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville to the City.
The MOU allowed Duke Energy to conduct environmental and geotechnical testing of 57 Rankin Ave. It also required Duke Energy to participate in community engagement with surrounding stakeholders and work to mitigate visual impacts and remain consistent with the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
September 13, 2021: City staff presented a project overview and recommendation to enter into an MOU with Duke Energy to the Planning and Economic Development Committee. The Committee approved unanimously.
Rankin Avenue Reliability Project Website
PED Presentation – September 13, 2021
City Council Resolution – September 28, 2021
Urban Forestry Commission – July 5, 2022
Design Review Committee – July 21, 2022
Economic Development Specialist
Community and Economic Development Department