Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: I’ve heard that Duke Energy has abandoned its plan to build a new substation along Lexington Avenue and will expand its current station behind the Harrah’s Cherokee-Asheville Center. Is this correct? If so, when will it be built? And what kind of station will it be? Also, what are they doing with the property at the corner of Patton Avenue and Clingman where they were going to build an enclosed substation?
My answer: I wonder if they’ve considered just turning the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium into a substation? At least that way, it would be cooler inside the venue.
Real answer: This drama has been dragging on for a few years now, as the downtown needs a power boost, but some residents and businesses don’t want a substation next door.
That’s particularly true on North Lexington Avenue, where Duke floated the idea of a sizable substation hidden behind a large wall. That’s not popular with the masses.
Duke spokesperson Jeff Brooks took these questions on, addressing Lexington Avenue first.
“Not sure about Lexington Avenue as I have not heard of plans related to that street, but we are exploring a parcel on Rankin Avenue for potential development of a new station,” Brooks said via email. “You are correct that Duke Energy and the City of Asheville are exploring rebuilding the existing substation on the parcel adjacent to the substation located at Rankin Avenue and Hiawassee Street.”
Construction should start in August 2024, pending permitting and zoning approvals from the city, Brooks said.
“This will be a transmission to distribution air-insulated substation designed to transform the 115-kilovolt transmission line voltage coming into the station down to the 13-kilovolt distribution voltage for our customers,” Brooks said. “These substations typically serve residential and commercial customers.”
They’re also typically open air, meaning they’re not in a building.
As far as the site at the corner of Patton and Clingman, which formerly was a car dealership but has been vacant for a few years now, look for activity coming up there, too.
“Pending conditional zoning approval, Duke Energy will install a temporary mobile substation at the Patton Avenue site during the construction of Rankin Avenue 115 kilovolt substation,” Brooks said. “Construction of the previously approved Patton Avenue gas-insulated (GIS) substation will begin immediately following the completion of Rankin Avenue 115 kilovolt Substation estimated to be complete in quarter four of 2025.
I also checked in with Chris Collins, Asheville’s land development division manager.
“The city has been engaged with Duke Energy regarding their substation plans, but no official applications to the city for development approval have been made at this time,” Collins said July 17 via email.
Question: Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity appears to be set on doing construction in the near future to fix the culvert that failed causing the sinkhole on London Road in Shiloh on Habitat property. I want the Answer Man to find out for the public:
- Is this funding coming from American Rescue Plan Act funds or the affordable housing bond money coffers?
- And what is the timeline for completion of the project?
My answer: The shame here is the sinkhole was renting for $495 a month, which is not bad in Asheville.
Real answer: This one also is quite the saga, with one home sustaining damage back in 2016. Located at 221 London Road, the home had to be demolished.
“Asheville Area Habitat recently purchased the property adjacent to the land it owns on London Street and is preparing to redevelop the site,” Barnett told me via email. “We are working with a local engineering firm to design a solution to manage stormwater on the site. Within the next few months, we’ll implement that solution, and thereafter build new affordable Habitat homes.”
As far as the financing, Barnett said the site acquisition and stormwater mitigation “is funded in part by the City of Asheville.
“Our understanding is that a combination of American Rescue Plan Act and philanthropic dollars are being used, but you should contact them directly if the details are critical,” Barnett said.
City of Asheville spokeswoman Kim Miller said, “The Housing Trust Fund was not used for sinkhole repairs.”
Also, “Stormwater staff checked and it appears the city is not involved with this private work,” Miller said.
Barnett said Habitat plans to build at least four homes on the .6 acre site once the remediation is complete. The current estimate for total development cost is about $1.2 million.
“The cost to remediate the stormwater conditions on this site are high and would prohibit affordable development without public support,” Barnett said. “At this point, only the acquisition and a portion of the site remediation costs have been committed. We’re confident that, after we overcome the unique challenges of remediating this site, Habitat’s usual mix of private, public, and earned revenue will support the cost of redeveloping homes on the site.”
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-337-0941.