Asheville, NC’s pit of despair may transform into a slope of hope

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It’s been known colloquially for a while as the “pit of despair,” but now, it looks like the empty lot called 68 Haywood St. —  across the street from Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville and the Basilica of St. Lawrence — may have a hopeful new future

Since 2001, numerous plans for the space have been proposed, argued, voted on, and scrapped. In 2017, a committee of local residents joined forces and created a vision report for City Council, and over the last few years, consultants drafted a variety of scenarios known as the Haywood Page Project, and after addressing input from residents, issued a final proposal for what to do with the city-owned property. 

The proposed plan (which received a unanimous recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission during its Oct. 7 meeting last week) calls for a 1.25-acre park on Haywood St. + Page Ave. At the heart of the park is a large elliptical plaza paved in granite that will also serve as a central square or plaza. Click here to see renderings of the proposed park.

In order to accommodate the $13.2 million park, streets would have to be rerouted, and trees + plants would be prominently featured throughout. Roughly 20% of the park would be taken up by a private building. The proposed park’s other highlights include community gardens with raised beds, perennial + woodland gardens to showcase the area’s diverse flora, and a possible sculpture

The plan is set to go before a vote by City Council Oct. 27, but even if it’s approved, the park will remain only a plan until other factors, including the cost of the park itself, are decided. Officials note that while it’s an exciting prospective development for the city, it’s also coming at a time when city finances are already strained by the pandemic. Officials say it will likely be at least another two years until construction will begin. 

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