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City of Asheville holds open house on Patton Avenue redesign

A man writes on a sticky note to offer ideas for the Patton Avenue redevelopment project.
Felicia Sonmez
A resident writes on a sticky note to offer ideas for the Patton Avenue redevelopment project.

Post-It notes, colorful flags and sticky dots were some of the tools Asheville residents had at their disposal Wednesday night at an event where they were invited to offer input on a proposal to transform the eastern part of Patton Avenue.

The meeting, hosted by the City of Asheville at Harrah’s Cherokee Center, was the first opportunity for residents to weigh in on the plan which is tied to the $1.2 billion project to redesign I-26 and other highways in the area.

Vaidila Satvika, an urban planner with the city of Asheville, said the project will reshape the area of Patton Avenue between the Jeff Bowen Bridge and Pack Square.

“It’s an opportunity for the city and the members of the public to come together to create a vision for what the gateway to Patton and to downtown should look like, so that potentially we can influence that project,” Satvika said, referring to the I-26 project. “If we can’t make any influence, at least we can create a vision so that once it’s complete, we can come back and make better connections, or make the safety improvements that we want.”

The city and consultants from McAdams are conducting a planning study over the next year before drawing up a final proposal. Additional public meetings are expected next year.

Community members at Wednesday’s open house shared concerns related to pedestrian safety, green space and bicycle lanes.

People stand over a long table discussing a map of Patton Avenue.
Felicia Sonmez
Residents and planners examine the flags that attendees have placed on a map of Patton Avenue.

At one station in the banquet hall, attendees were given three sticky dots to place on a grid of nine priorities. At a table nearby, residents were invited to write detailed comments on sticky notes or mark a map of the Patton Avenue corridor with colorful flags corresponding to different concerns such as safety, traffic and walkability.

“I would really like to see an improvement on Patton Avenue; I think it’s very heavily focused toward cars and only cars,” Teresa Imfeld, a librarian who lives in West Asheville, said. “I’d like to be able to bike downtown, and currently I do that taking Clingman [Avenue]. It would be great if there was an improved corridor that would go straight across the bridge.”

Kristy Carter, a senior project manager working on traffic planning and design, said many residents had expressed similar concerns at Wednesday night’s meeting, pointing to the colorful flags on the map of the corridor.

The redesign project, Carter said, will likely bring greater transportation opportunities, “particularly for people who walk and bike.”

“The good thing about this project, if it happens the way we’re thinking, is it will improve the experience on Bowen Bridge and improve that experience around Clingman,” Carter said.

Ethan Blackmore, a 33-year-old software designer who lives in West Asheville, voiced concerns about bikeability as well as the city’s plans for how it will use some of the land that will be newly freed up as a result of the project.

“One of the things that I was really interested to hear more about is when the 26 interchange is done, all the extra land that will become available for development there … I was really curious to see how the city is thinking about that,” Blackmore said.

Satvika said that the details will be developed as the project moves forward, but that it will likely include the extension of the downtown corridor toward Bowen Bridge.

“I’m guessing that that’s the direction this plan will go, because that’s been a consistent theme from the Asheville community for many years, but there are always surprises,” Satvika said. “There may be some park space that is put into the plan, or a better connection from the road, from Patton Avenue to connect southward.”

Find out more about the project and offer your thoughts at ashevillenc.gov/patton.

Felicia Sonmez is a reporter covering growth and development for Blue Ridge Public Radio.