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On Feb. 26, Brownie Newman utilized the annual State of Downtown Asheville to provide updates on how Buncombe County is moving forward with some of its six strategic priorities. The Chair of the Board of Commissioners was joined by Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer in how the County and City are making progress on projects central to downtown.
One such project, a joint venture between the County and City, is the redevelopment of Lee Walker Heights. The County is investing $4.2 million to help renovate 96 obsolete public housing units and replace them with a 212-unit, mixed-income development. Newman also highlighted the newly formed Affordable Housing Committee citing its goal is “to be more proactive and coordinate with the County’s many partners.”
Newman also outlined how some of the County’s other strategic priorities are benefiting downtown and beyond:
- Clean energy projects: The County recently audited the YWCA’s South French Broad Avenue facility and overhauled its lighting with LED bulbs leading to an annual savings of more than $9,000. Check out the County’s Community Clean Energy Projects map for more information.
- Early childhood education: The Board of Commissioners has committed to annually provide $3.6 million toward early childhood education initiatives. A new Committee will be actively searching for policy and funding recommendations to pass along to the Board of Commissioners.
- Justice resource support: Buncombe County’s Justice Resource Advisory Council earned a $1.75 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation aimed at reducing the jail population. Newman noted the County is working with the Sheriff’s Office, Asheville Police Department, and other stakeholders to provide resources that will mitigate unnecessary incarceration.
- Opioid awareness: Buncombe is engaged in a lawsuit against manufacturers and is working on harm-reduction best practices such as providing needle exchange opportunities at County health facilities.
Newman also reminded people the new public parking deck at 40 Coxe Ave. is now open and that you can find real-time information on County and City parking spots with the parking app.
And while downtown Asheville will continue to evolve and present new opportunities and challenges, Newman noted the new County Manager Avril Pinder’s time in New Hanover County gives her experience with bustling downtowns. “Wilmington, in New Hanover County, has a vibrant downtown so she comes from where the importance of downtown is recognized and prioritized. We are looking forward to collaborating with the City.”