Public & Outdoor Space Usage During COVID-19: Supporting Asheville’s Economy Safely

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Protecting 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 has launched new ways to use outdoor spaces – like streets, sidewalks, parking areas and parks – differently, to support economic recovery and other community and business needs. This work relies on collaboration, communication and flexibility across sectors of government, business and community.

City staff and City Council received great ideas and proposals in the spring of 2020 and continues to welcome input. Staff is tracking and reviewing recommendations along with current and emerging best practices from other cities.

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 is key in the rollout and continued operation of these programs.

This webpage will continue to be updated regularly. 


Happening Now

The City has an interdepartmental team continuing to support new and expanded use of outdoor spaces to promote public health & safety during COVID-19 and or to support local economic recovery. 

On November 9, 2021, updates were provided to City Council. The presentation is available here.


Program Timeline:

  • Expansion on private property – staff is reaching out to businesses to request site details, and will then determine if there is a path to permanency for each case. Businesses can also go ahead and submit their site details through this form. Development Services staff will follow up to provide assistance with steps forward. 
  • Expansion on public sidewalks – for seating/merchandise to remain in place beyond January 3, 2022, businesses should apply for an outdoor dining permit (and encroachment as applicable). Find the application here
  • Parklets – existing parklets may remain in-place through June 30, 2022. Updates to progress on long-term possibilities will be shared in the Spring of 2022. No new applications are being accepted at this time.


Thanks for your Input!

Results from the September 2021 public survey are available here.

If you own or manage a business and have directly participated in these programs, please email us and we’ll send you the participating business survey. 



Description of Programs

  • Curbside pick-up zones in commercial districts 
    • Announcement details are here.
    • These zones are located in commercial areas to serve surrounding businesses and services. The zones are not dedicated to individual businesses, but provide opportunities for customers to more easily access curbside pick-up within the surrounding area. A map of current pick-up zones is available here.
    • To request a new curbside pick-up zone, please email
  • Expanded opportunities for flexible use of private property 
    • Businesses can request to use their private parking lots, landscape areas, and walkways to expand operations in alignment with public health guidelines. Fill out this online request form to request expanded use of private property. *Requests that fall within the temporary outdoor expansion guidelines are not subject to a formal permit process but must receive authorization through this program application.
    • Announcement details are here.
  • Expanded flexibility for use of sidewalks 
    • Businesses can request to use areas of adjacent public sidewalk in alignment with public health guidelines. Fill out this online form to request expanded use of sidewalk space. Note that a minimum 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 but must receive authorization through this program application.
    • Announcement details are here
  • Creation of temporary “parklets” in on-street parking
    • Businesses and organizations can request to temporarily use 1-3 public parking spaces adjacent to their storefronts.
    • The guidelines are available here.
    • New applications are not being accepted.
    • Contact: Jon Fillman,
  • Shared Streets / “Pedestrian Priority Zones” for commerce and recreation
    • Launched June 2020 on “The Block” (portions of Eagle and S. Market)
    • Launched in June 2020 on Banks, Buxton and Collier in South Slope
    • Launched in July 2020 on Wall Street and a portion of College Street
    • More information and guidelines on Shared Street use is here.
    • Contact: Dana Frankel,
  • Equity Markets
    • In partnership with the City’s Business Inclusion Office, diverse small businesses and makers can connect with customers through City-supported vending opportunities 
    • Launched November 2020 at the ASAP Farmer’s Market, Creative Hub Market and Uncommon Holiday Market
    • Opportunities are now available with the Ooh La La Curiosity Market taking place on Saturdays from May – October at Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville
    • Interested vendors can complete this this application form or contact Rosanna Mulcahy for more information,


All application forms can be found on the Development Portal.


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

Email the team at

See Sept. 2021 public survey results here


COVID-19 Resources

Find up to date information on COVID-19 in Buncombe County at With questions about COVID-19 in Buncombe County, call 828-419-0095 or email


Additional Temporary Accommodations to Support Businesses with Recovery


Information and Updates

Application forms and guidelines (also found at




Contact the team at


Updated 11/12/2021



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