An artist rendering shows the transformation of the Asheville Cotton Mill under a development plan for the property. // Photo credit: BRN Development

Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: Why has a large portion of Jean Webb Park near Craven Street on Riverside Drive and an area across the street next to Cotton Mill Studios been fenced off? Please don’t tell me that they will become parking lots.

My answer: Normally, the concern is hotels. Or apartments. Or another brewpub. Or possibly bike lanes. Maybe houses. Or a new factory. Or a road widening. Honestly, it’s kind of refreshing to field concerns about parking.

Real answer: A mixed-use development is coming to this site, but let’s first address the reader’s concern about Jean Webb Park and parking.

“No, there is no plan to make this a parking lot,” developer Brennan Smith, of BRN Development, told me via email. “It will be planted with trees only upon project completion.”

The park was named for Jean Webb, Asheville GreenWorks’ first director and an advocate for revitalization of the French Broad River.

RiverLink, a nonprofit concerned with the environmental and economic vitality of the river  and its watershed, sold the property under development to BRN in 2021, which RiverLink notes on its website. Formerly a historic cotton mill that burned down in 1995, the site comprises two parcels, the former mill site at 159 Riverside Drive and the adjacent property across the street at 144 Riverside Drive.

The former Cotton Mill, originally built in the late 1880s, burned down in 1995. The smokestack remains, though. A developer still plans to build apartments and retail on the site. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

About all that remains from the mill is a large smokestack. RiverLink notes the Asheville Cotton Mill, formerly the C.E. Graham Manufacturing Company, was built in the late 1880s and “supplied cotton products to Levi Strauss and made uniforms for soldiers fighting in WWI and WWII.”

“In the mid 1990s, after many years of neglect, the Historic Cotton Mill was acquired by the Preservation Society of Buncombe County, with the goal of renovating the space into artist studios,” RiverLink states. “In 1995 a fire all but destroyed the building, and RiverLink took over ownership of the property.”

RiverLink says on its website that it waited about 25 years for the “right opportunity to sell to an environmentally-minded developer who will honor the integrity of the riverfront as outlined in the Wilma Dykeman Riverway Plan, and promote opportunities for the Asheville community to engage with the river.” Also, the sale for a mixed-use development “has always been part of RiverLink’s vision for this section of the Asheville riverfront.”

“There are a number of green features being proposed for the building that are consistent with RiverLink’s mission and that we feel will help protect water quality in the French Broad,” RiverLink states. “These include a proposed green roof over a portion of the building, solar panels, rain water harvesting and reuse, permeable pavement for parking, and an underground stormwater collection tank that will treat and release runoff before it enters the French Broad River.”

Information about the project is available here, but the plans are a little outdated, as they say construction was to start last summer and finish in summer 2025. Plans do still call for 134 apartments and 14,000 square feet of retail space on the 159 Riverside site, Smith said, but the timeline needs adjusting.

This site near Jean Webb Park on Riverside Drive will not be used for parking, the developer says. Apartments, retail and parking will be located across the street, though, on the former Cotton Mill site. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

BRN got city approval for the project in late summer 2021.

“We have gotten delayed with some permitting and design challenges here recently,” Smith said. “We do not have a firmed-up timeline as of yet, but (we’re) working on that. I need to update this on our website.”

Plans call for developing only the former mill site for now, Smith said, “with the 144 site being used for tree canopy along the river.”

The project will have 165 parking spaces, but they’re all surface spaces, with no parking decks planned.

The city of Asheville, through spokesperson Kim Miller, noted that the Wilma Dykeman Greenway runs through the property nearest the river, which is located between Craven Street Bridge Boating Access Area and Jean Webb Park.

“Public access to the greenway will not be impacted,” Miller said.

Question: We know the Asheville Airport has parking issues because they are seeing record numbers of travelers. Why can’t they do what some other airports do in many different cities, for example:

  • A site you can check to see the current status of parking lots or at least the garage.
  • A remote shuttle lot — such as the Parking Spot that we have seen in many cities — you reserve a spot and when you park there they drop you at the airport.
  • A system to reserve a spot ahead of time like they now do in the Charlotte airport in the garages.

My answer: I feel like the bullet points in this question are going to open up a whole new realm of questions that exceed my “No more than 10 questions within one Answer Man question” rule. Thanks for that.

Real answer: Asheville Regional Airport spokesperson Tina Kinsey took these on, point by point. First up, the ability to check the status of parking lots and garages:

A reader asks if Asheville Regional Airport could incorporate some parking improvements, and an airport spokesperson says some are on the way. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

“Good news — we have an interface under development now to place the live digital car counts for the hourly, daily and garage on our website,” Kinsey said.

Regarding the remote shuttle lot:

“A parking reservation system may be in our future; however, with our current parking demand we do not have the parking real estate available at this time to dedicate a controlled lot for reserved parking,” Kinsey said.

Anyone who’s flown recently from AVL knows the airport has a lot of construction going on, part of the new terminal project. And the parking is tight.

Some help is on the way, though.

The airport has a shuttle lot under construction that will have an additional 600-plus spaces and will be open by early November, Kinsey said.

The airport also has implemented mobile prepay in its three overflow lots (Lots A, B & C on Wright Brothers Way), to streamline use of these lots, Kinsey added.

“A park assist system is currently being installed in our parking garage that will aid customers’ search for an open spot,” Kinsey said. “Green overhead lights will indicate available spots in the garage.”

Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to