January 8, 2013
Honorable Terry Bellamy, Mayor of Asheville
Asheville City Council
Gary Jackson, Asheville City Manager
Stephanie Monson, COA Riverfront Redevelopment Coordinator and Urban Planner for Economic Development
Dear City Council,
We are writing this letter in regards to the future of the Ice House property on Riverside Drive. First of all, we would again like to acknowledge our appreciation to the City of Asheville for the efforts it has taken to address the numerous problems at the site. While the building is still not fully secured, action has been taken and the situation has improved. Additionally, the City has been in open communication and dialogue with us about permanent solutions to address the public safety problems as well as the long-term possibilities for the site.
Within our neighborhood, there are varying opinions about the future of the Ice House. Most people support the demolition of the building, acknowledging that this process began many years ago through neglect. Others feel that it should not be demolished and we are repeating past failures of vision and political will to preserve a special piece of history. Yet, there is a broad feeling of concern about the public’s safety in and around the building as well as the loss of history that has already taken place through neglect, and that may yet still take place through demolition. Because there wasn’t a greater effort put forward years ago by the property owners, the City of Asheville and the community to better secure, protect and envision a new future for this historical asset, we are now left with few options, with demolition being the easiest path.
Beyond the Ice House, many WECAN residents are concerned about the continuing loss and deterioration of significant historic structures in our neighborhood. We hope that a renewed effort can be harnessed between a range of public, private, and civic partners to create the vision and funding to give new life to these structures before we are, once again, faced with demolition as a seemingly reasonable solution. Additionally, since this numerous people were using this building as shelter, it is a reminder that we still have much work to do to eliminate homelessness and solve the problems that communities such as ours face as a result of the many people who cannot, will not, or are unable to find permanent housing.
If City Council decides to move forward with the demolition of the Ice House, WECAN would like to recommend that it proceed under the following conditions:
· Every effort is made to preserve and save any existing significant historical elements of the building including but not limited to, the large brick chimney, any old remaining machinery and other contributing elements so as to leave remnants of the building for future reference.
· Once the building is demolished, we would like to see a kiosk or informational display that references historical information about the history of the site and the building.
· City Council require the demolition contractor (Taylor and Murphy or whomever is selected) to have at least one employee working on the demolition, who resides in one of the surrounding neighborhoods (WECAN, Hillcrest, West Riverside, East-West Asheville Neighborhood, South French Broad, Southside, etc) and to work with Green Opportunities to ensure this occurs.
· The City should remain in constant and open dialogue with the public and surrounding neighborhood about the future development possibilities of the Ice House, and consider how this site and those around it can engage and create productive public spaces that reference the exceptional history of the riverfront area and surrounding residential community, while also providing a place for a range of people and incomes to work, play, and live.
We appreciate the City’s leadership on this issue and look forward to this site becoming a significant community asset.
West End / Clingman Avenue Neighborhood (WECAN)