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

Last updated or reviewed on June 27, 2022

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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 recovery. With consideration for physical distancing and other safety measures implemented by public health officials, in spring of 2020, the City 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 ideas and proposals in the spring of 2020 and continues to welcome input through recovery. Staff is also keeping up with emerging best practices from other cities on what a post-pandemic future could look like.

It is critical that planning and implementation for uses of public space is equitable and inclusive. Intentional and strategic community engagement is key in the continued operation and evolution of these programs.

This webpage will continue to be updated regularly. 

 


Happening Now

The City has an interdepartmental team working to transition the temporary outdoor expansion initiatives into existing or new long-term programs. 

Updates were City Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee on June 13, 2022. The presentation is available here and staff report available here

Previous updates were provided to City Council on November 9, 2021. That presentation is available here.

A Public Space Management Task Force made up of community representatives is providing input to staff on long-term implementation of programs that impact streets and sidewalks downtown. More information about the Task Force is available here

 

Survey Results – 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. 

 


 

Program Descriptions & Updates

  • Curbside pick-up zones in commercial districts 
    • Initial announcement details are here
    • These zones are located Downtown and on Haywood Road in West Asheville to support surrounding businesses. The zones are not dedicated to individual businesses, but provide opportunities for customers to more easily access goods and services within the surrounding area. A map of the pick-up zones is available here.
    • As of spring 2022, staff is seeking feedback from businesses to return some curbside pick-up zones to public parking. 
    • To request that an existing space/zone be removed, please email parking@ashevillenc.gov.
  • Flexible use of private property 
    • Businesses were able to use their private parking lots, landscape areas, and walkways to expand operations in alignment with public health guidelines through January 3, 2022
    • Staff is working one-on-one with businesses to determine if there is a path to permanency through existing permitting process for those who participated in the temporary program. Businesses should submit their site details through this form or contact Development Services staff at pac@ashevillenc.gov or 828-259-5846
  • Use of public sidewalks 
    • Businesses were able use areas of adjacent public sidewalk in alignment with public health guidelines through an expedited and fee-free process through January 3, 2022
    • As of January 3, 2022, businesses must apply for an outdoor dining and/or merchandise permit (and new encroachment agreement as applicable) to continue having seating or merchandise on public sidewalks. Submit an application for a new permit or renew a previously issued permit through the City’s development portal here.
  • Temporary “parklets” in on-street parking
    • Businesses and organizations were able to request to temporarily use 1-3 public parking spaces adjacent to their storefronts. The guidelines are here. No new applications are being accepted at this time
    • Existing parklets may remain in-place through calendar year 2022.
    • Long-term program development is underway for launch in 2023. 
    • Contact (temporary program): Jon Fillman, jfillman@ashevillenc.gov
    • Contact (long-term program development): Karli Stephenson, kstephenson@ashevillenc.gov. 
  • Shared Streets / “Pedestrian Priority Zones” 
    • Launched in June 2020 on “The Block” (portions of Eagle and S. Market), South Slope (Banks, Buxton and Collier) – discontinued in fall 2021/transitioned to the parklet program. 
    • Launched in July 2020 on Wall Street and a portion of College Street – Wall Street’s configuration and “Shared Street” designation is continuing long-term. 
    • More information and guidelines on Shared Street use is here.
    • Contact: Dana Frankel, dfrankel@ashevillenc.gov
  • Equity Markets
    • In partnership with the City’s Business Inclusion Office, diverse small businesses and makers connected with customers through City-supported vending opportunities. 
    • Launched November 2020 at the ASAP Farmer’s Market, Creative Hub Market, Uncommon Holiday Market and continued through 2021 at the Ooh La La Curiosity Market from May – October. 
    • Businesses/vendors interested in future opportunities like this can contact Angelica Driver with the City’s Business Inclusion Office at adriver@ashevillenc.gov

 


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 publicspace@ashevillenc.gov

See Sept. 2021 public survey results here

 


COVID-19 Resources

Find up to date information on COVID-19 in Buncombe County at www.buncombeready.org. With questions about COVID-19 in Buncombe County, call 828-419-0095 or email ready@buncombecounty.org.

 


Additional Temporary Accommodations to Support Businesses with Recovery

 


Information and Updates

Application forms and guidelines (also found at develop.ashevillenc.gov)

 

 


Contact

Contact the team at publicspace@ashevillenc.gov.

 

Updated 6/27/2022

 


 

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