Many complaints about the 51 Biltmore project said it was bad for the environment and sidewalks. Some said Pat Whalen and Public Interest Projects, Julian Price’s development firm, were “greedy developers.” As Julian’s widow, I’d like to add Julian’s perspective.
Julian, an avid environmentalist, knew that sprawling development hurts people and the environment. In 1991, he hired Pat Whalen to help start and run PIP to help “build” Asheville out of sprawl through higher-density development.
Julian’s quirky, much-loved CityWatch Magazine championed sidewalks, parking decks, parks and high-density urban living. It told how more efficient growth preserves farmland and wildlife habitat, reduces the need for more rural sewer lines and roads, prevents water pollution and frees up money for sidewalks, parks and other services. Julian knew that high-rise hotels downtown also help make a lively, healthy city work as an antidote to sprawl.
As Julian’s trust in Pat and PIP grew, he handed more and more over to Pat and the PIP staff. Pat had proven his integrity, his passion for people and the environment, his sound business sense and his ability to find creative ways to contribute to Asheville’s robust livability.
At times, Julian let Pat overcome Julian’s objections about some of PIP’s projects and was glad for it. Both The Orange Peel and the Laughing Seed are here because Pat fought for them.
The 51 Biltmore hotel/parking deck project is a complicated but brilliant, sensible solution to several issues. It is the first public/private partnership to be approved in Asheville in at least 20 years — despite the recession, misperceptions of the facts and vociferous public criticism. The project doesn’t solve all of our problems, but Julian would be really proud of the PIP staff and Pat for their tireless effort, and of City Council. Thanks to all who helped!
— Meg MacLeod