The city-owned property in downtown Asheville across from the Civic Center and the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, which is currently being considered for sale and development, is located in a National Register Historic District. In this area, Civic Center and church activities are compounded by a concentration of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Further density should be kept to a minimum with open space maximized for access, movement, enhancement of the public realm, and protection of the viewshed of the Basilica.
A hotel design which has been proposed reaches to the edge of the parcel with no substantial set-back, and, visually, would be very massive due to its height. Strict design requirements must be placed on the project to both reconcile the city’s need for site development, and provide an appropriate response to the surrounding historic context and level of activity.
The Basilica and the Battery Park Apartments, with the Grove Arcade to the southwest, comprise a viewshed which should be highlighted and protected as an asset for the city. New construction on this parcel must anticipate the likelihood of National Historic Landmark designation of Saint Lawrence. The church building should be protected not only from damage by adjacent construction, but also from crowding the perspective which surrounds it.
Extensive documentation has proven conclusively that Asheville’s economy has prospered from the respect given to its historic architectural assets. This should be the foremost consideration for this site, which currently includes city-sponsored demolition of existing historic resources prior to the conclusion of any permanent development plan.
Jack W. L. Thomson, Executive Director
Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County