Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Future of the Ice House

At the January 8 meeting, Asheville City Council is expected to vote on what to do with the Ice House property that the city recently purchased.  Please share your comments here on what you would like to see happen with the site. 

How can it be secured?  Should it be preserved?  Should certainly parts of it be preserved?  Should it be demolished?  If it is demolished, what should the site be used for until a more permanent solution is figured out? 

Below are two memos sent to the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission (AARRC) communicating the considerations and options that City of Asheville is exploring in regards to the site.  (The AARRC voted 10 to 1 in favor of a resolution to support the COA report to demolish the Ice House.)

TO:                         Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission

FROM:             Stephanie Monson Dahl, Urban Planner

SUBJECT:             Consideration of Advisory Position to Asheville City Council Regarding 
                        Disposition of Ice Plant Building at 91 Riverside Drive in the River Arts District

DATE:             December 13, 2012

Background:  The City of Asheville purchased the property, PIN #9638973694, for redevelopment purposes on November 30, 2012. The property includes 2.2  acres of open space on the French Broad River and approximately 1 acre of developed property  on the east side of Riverside Drive where the approximately 50,000 square foot building known as the Ice House is situated.

Review: City staff will recommended to Council that the building be demolished based on the following review: preliminary due diligence documents regarding potential for rehabilitation; staff’s understanding  that structural steel had been removed from the inside of the building/other compromises to the integrity of the building structure have been made while the building has sat unsecured for years; and the projected direct and indirect financial costs associated with supporting heavy security measures to protect public safety in and around the building. While staff supports the administration and achievement of many Council goals, protecting the public health, safety and welfare is staff’s chief duty.  Staff’s recommendation to pursue demolition of the building includes the preservation of the iconic smokestack to the south of the building.
The River District Design Review Committee held a special meeting on December 5, 2012 to consider this item, as it is part of their mandate by ordinance to review any building or demolition activity that will have a substantial impact in the River District. Because opinions on this item were diverse with no clear consensus on a recommendation to Council apparent, the Committee did not vote on the item.
Council will consider staff’s recommendation, consider public input, and give policy direction to staff on the immediate disposition of the property at their meeting on January 8, 2012. Council may consider a variety of options not discussed in this memo. Any associated staff report and exhibits sent  to Council will be available to the public on the Friday in advance of their meeting.

Pros and Cons developed by staff regarding demolition include:
·       Eliminates a health and safety hazard that is widely considered a public nuisance
·       Alleviates need for costly and potentially ineffective security measures by owner (City).
·       Provides a potentially more attractive redevelopment site for investor in the future, as more potential forms of redevelopment possible.
·       Cleans up physical appearance of district, potentially attracting investment and detracting disinvestment and blight/nuisance use.
·       Has potential for more interim uses (open space, parking, temporary uses, festival support) as a site than if the building remains, including potential revenue producing uses.
·       Multiple potential purchasers have reviewed the building, met with City staff, and have not found a solvent financial and business plan for the building
·       Eliminates a contributing building to Riverside Industrial Historic District
·       If demolished, rehabilitation credits (Federal, state, and local) are unavailable to developers.
·       Cost to demolish: $145,000 base rate, plus contingency (not to exceed  $225,000)

If Council chooses to demolish the building, staff recommends that the newly acquired property be used in the short term for parking that supports riverfront revitalization (festivals and events/strolls, general business support and access to open space and recreation), and be used in the long term to support a redevelopment accomplished through public private partnership. In order to determine the preferred long term redevelopment option for the property the City will include 91 Riverside Drive as part of the Riverside Drive Strategic Planning process scheduled for Spring 2013.

 Recommendation: Staff recommends the Riverfront Commission provide Asheville City Council with a formal recommendation on the consideration of demolition or other disposition of the building located at 91 Riverside Drive.  


TO Asheville Riverfront Redevelopment Commission
FROM Stephanie Monson, Urban Planner
SUBJECT Policy Options for Disposition of Ice Plant- Expanded Discussion
DATE December 13, 2012

The purpose of this memo is to provide the Riverfront Commission with more information
about the policy options Asheville City Council may consider regarding the disposition of
the Ice House building at 91 Riverside Drive, recently acquired by the City of Asheville
for redevelopment purposes.

Primary Policy Options include:

Option 1 Extension of Current Efforts
Policy Goal: Meet the minimum (plus) for unsafe building ordinance requirements
regarding the abatement of life hazards associated with building. Directly respond to
Council’s Strategic Plan goal of improving public safety in neighborhoods with the
highest levels of crime.
Review: Staff is guided in this by Chapter 4, Article 6 of the Unified Development
Ordinance, regarding unsafe buildings aimed at protecting the safety of its citizens. The
Ice House as an unsecured, dilapidated building is a public nuisance, generating at least
250 calls for service to the Asheville Police Department in the past two years, with an
unknown number of unrecorded incidents. The building is compromised externally, with
penetrations of the building’s exterior spanning over 20 feet, allowing easy entrance to
the building. The Ice House is also compromised internally, which becomes a safety
hazard to curious passersby who regularly wander inside, people experiencing
homelessness that are seeking shelter from the elements, and any public safety officials
trying to protect the health, safety, and welfare of individuals or groups who have chosen
to enter or stay in the building. The dilapidated condition of the interior is evidenced in
photographs, confirmed by the apprehension of suspects deconstructing the building for
personal gain, and by building safety professionals noting rotting structural materials. At
minimum, the City must secure and or remedy by ordinance the building to an extent
that abates the hazardous associated conditions. The ordinance notes that if the owner
of the building cannot abate the hazardous conditions, a demolition must be sought.
City staff, as part of its current 60-day Security Plan, is currently meeting or exceeding
the minimum required to protect safety by the following measures:
• Evacuation and relocation of individuals living in the building: A team of outside
agency (Homeless Service Providers) workers and City public safety officials
found new shelter for 12 individuals and their pets living in the unsecured
• Posting of structure being a dangerous building: City Building Safety personnel
posted “Notice of Dangerous Building” signs in multiple locations around the
perimeter of the building.
• Provision of additional physical security to the building: A city facilities team
closed as much of the exterior penetrations as possible using conventional
lumber and other readily available construction materials as of Tuesday
December 4th, 2012. Security tape was strung across areas they were unable to
board up.
• Provision of additional public safety patrol: under the direction of Fire Chief Scott
Burnette and Chief of Police William Anderson, additional patrols have been
Next Step
• Provisions of additional operational measures to abate hazard: City staff suggest
that the safest and most secure environment can be created in the short term by
focusing on operational measures and human resources. Substantial physical
improvements to the building require Council‘s authorization and funding. Easily
compromised security measures like fencing around or boarding up the building
are considered impediments to the operation of police and fire when responding
to a call public safety; the City will provide a substantial operational presence on
the Ice House site that insures physical safety. This measure will continue until
policy direction changes.
Fiscal Impacts: $12,000 to $15,000 for 60 days, not including staff time such as
increased patrols, coordination of efforts, and use of labor to secure building.
Other Considerations: The extension of this plan from a short term, interim (60-day)
option to a six-month option or longer would not be recommended without additional
physical improvements to the building itself. Because of this, it is estimated that for every
six months, this option would cost $50,000 to $60,000.

Option 2 Demolition of Main Building and Preservation of Iconic Smokestack
Policy Goal: Meet the unsafe building ordinance and eliminate future need to address life
hazards on site. Create redevelopment opportunities that align with adopted plans and
strategies for the area. Directly respond to Council’s Strategic Plan goals of promoting
sustainable, high-density, infill growth that makes efficient use of existing resources, and
continuing efforts to rejuvenate the riverfront area by removal of a safety hazard that hasbeen deemed unattractive for redevelopment.
Review: Staff has developed the following considerations associated with the proposed
demolition of the Ice Plant building.
• Immediately eliminates the hazards associated with the building’s condition and
fulfills the unsafe building ordinance requirement.
• Prepares the developable portion of the site for interim uses that support
revitalization of the riverfront, such as temporary commercial or special event
uses or parking for the same and for business accessibility or riverfront
• Provides a shovel ready site for developers looking to partner with the City on
new construction.
• Eliminates a contributing building to the National Riverside Industrial Historic
District, meaning any potential future use of historic tax credits are lost upon
• Option eliminates a historic asset reflecting the cultural history of Asheville pre-
World War II
Fiscal Impacts: The City’s lowest responsible bid for demolition is $145,000. The City
expects to abate a moderate amount of asbestos before that time, and to pay $10,000 to
$15,000 to secure and protect the iconic smokestack. Creation of temporary parking lot
on site is estimated at $25,000 to $35,000. Council would be asked to allocate an
amount not to exceed $225,000 for the project.
Other Considerations: Staff concludes that the rehabilitation standards required to
access the tax credits appear to be unattractive to potential development partners, as
the limitations on redevelopment are significant. For example, few, if any, windows could
be installed on the exterior, and most of the building could not be used as habitable
space due to existing low ceiling heights.
In a related effort, a small area strategic planning process is underway to determine long
term uses of City owned property along Riverside Drive in the River Arts District. A
preferred redevelopment scenario will be chosen for the site(s) and presented to the
Riverfront Commission and ultimately Council. Staff will be guided by fiscal
sustainability; however, additional costs are likely to be associated with future

Option 3 Non Profit Partnership Model/Preservation for Museum Project-
Policy Goal: Preserving the building for a monumental project based on the cultural
history of the riverfront. Supports future infill riverfront redevelopment project in
partnership with a nonprofit organization.
Review: This option suggests “mothballing” the building for a future museum project.
One redevelopment example has been presented to staff and community members in
the form of a Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The programming and resulting
spatial needs of the Museum model are based off the newly opened Peoria Riverfront
Museum (Illinois).
• Preserves the building
• Displays the historic nature of the Ice Plant
• Could potentially spur a regional tourist attraction
• Does not mitigate the life hazard and associated liabilities
• Less support for temporary uses that support vibrancy
• Prolonged vacancy of dilapidated riverfront structures detracts from revitalization
• Narrows field of potential redevelopment partners
• No identified institutional partner at present
Fiscal Impacts: Unknown. The cost of a similar museum project is estimated at $80
million. It is likely that the municipality will carry a substantial amount of total
redevelopment or maintenance costs, as evidenced with such projects as Pack Square
Conservancy and the Grove Arcade Rehabilitation. Funding for institutional projects is
highly competitive, and corporate entities to partner with on a project of this size and
scope are limited. Minimum cost to the City to “mothball” the building is estimated at
$180,000; however, this estimate does not include continuing security and maintenance
of the existing structure.

Other considerations: Council will need to review national best practices for such a
project, including partnership/management structures, financial models and pro formas.
Staff notes that monumental projects such as these may provide high community benefit
in the long run, but require substantial time and public subsidy to achieve.

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