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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Historical Charlotte Street homes under threat of demolition

Brandon Ayoungchee

Arts & Features Writer

[email protected]

Photo by Camryn Mickan
Neighborhood signage encouraging saving Charlotte Street.

The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County called plans to replace 11-13 historical homes– places with rich history and architecture– with residential units, a bad idea.

Jesscia Landl, executive director of the PSABC, leads the protest. She said many people in the Charlotte Street community call it a bad idea.

“As executive director and in that role she manages everything in which PSABC gets involved. She manages our fundraising efforts and budgets, coordinates the projects we take on, and keeps PSABC running through all of the things that come up in the community,” Landl said. “we have heard the same thing over and over again, ‘This is a terrible idea.’ For reasons because of the historical value and culture these places contain.”

The PSABC remains a staunch supporter of homes that contain historical integrity, according to the director. It’s the organization’s mission to preserve homes of cultural importance over the progress of industrialism.

“The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County is a non-profit organization focused on preserving the unique built heritage of the region. Our mission statement sums it up. To conserve Asheville and Buncombe County’s heritage and sense of place through preservation and promotion of the region’s historic resources,” Landl said.

Erica LeClaire, director of preservation, leads and coordinates the efforts of advocating against the demolishment on a community level.

“As the Director of Preservation for the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, I lead and coordinate our efforts to advocate for and carry out historic preservation in our community. This includes conducting detailed documentation of significant sites, providing restoration advice to homeowners and many other things as they come up. I’m relatively new to this role, so another big part of my job right now is learning about the architectural history and culture of Asheville,” LeClaire said.

She said the 100-year-old houses of Charlotte Street demonstrate the quality of Asheville and its historical richness.

“Charlotte Street and the surrounding neighborhoods demonstrate the quality and diversity of residential architecture in Asheville. There is a mix of styles that embody the building boom that happened here around the turn of the 20th century. The proposed development would deeply impact the character and integrity of both the Charlotte Street corridor and the Chestnut Hills National Historic District. There are 13 homes owned by the developers, RCG and the Killian family, on the 100 block of Charlotte Street and behind it on Baird, Furman, and E Chestnut. All of the homes proposed for demolition are contributing to the National Register of Historic Places district,” the preservation director said.

Apart from preserving history, LeClaire explained other reasons why the Charlotte Street block should remain untouched.

“The proposed development does not address equitable housing needs as more affordable housing units are lost than gained. Asheville residents need affordable places to live, and unfortunately, this simple fact does not have a simple solution. We must also take into account combating climate change. It takes energy to make a building. Lastly, it’s less susceptible to economic downturn. Historic districts are more likely to be home to new, small, local and women and minority owned businesses, while new construction is much more likely to attract chain businesses,” LeCalire said.

Molly Madsen, despite living on Evelyn Place, walks outside her front yard and plants two signs of “Save Charlotte Street,” the trademark sign for the PSABC’s goal.

“From what I understand is that the people who owned the houses on Charlotte Street owned them from the 1980s’. Of course, they would get a lot of money selling that property to a builder or private owner. But people want to change it into an apartment complex,” Madsen said.

Madsen argued that the houses could be easily refurbished. A little modern touch up on the antiquated households pulls an interested buyer, like herself, according to the advocate.

“What people and I would like to do is have them refurbished. They’re old, very old houses. They could save the houses and sell them to somebody like me. They could buy one and redo it and make it a project to make it modern while still being historic to the property,” she said.

Madsen, much like the preservation society, advocates for the preservation of the historical integrity of the Charlotte Street homes.

“With my house, I could have just gone to any modern house and be done with it. Instead, my husband and I bought this house on Evelyn Place. We spend years working on it and refurbishing to bring it back to its original splendor and give it back to Asheville. We make sure all the bathrooms work, all the fireplaces and everything in the house. We got rid of the dead trees and created a beautiful garden. We won’t own this place forever. However, this place will remain the same,” Madsen said.

Madsen said it’s her way to not only give it as a gift to the community but also to people who come after her time.

“We leave it as a gift. You leave a footprint. That’s what you call. That’s a positive thing. That’s what the PSABC and us are doing: leaving a footprint to remember the community,” Madsen said.

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