Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: Years ago — maybe 1997 or so — a little old lady crashed into a building down in Woolsey Dip across from what now is Luella’s Barbecue. That hole has been fenced off all this time. What is the deal with that? Is the City of Asheville ever going to fix it? Or are they going to build a 10-story condo on the site?
My answer: No, but it definitely has potential as “The Pit of Despair, North.”
Real answer: This site has provided some excellent Answer Man fodder over the years, as it is indeed pretty hard to miss.
For the record, the car crash occurred in September 2005, not 1997, but it did involve an older driver who crashed into the building, knocking out key support columns that resulted in a collapse. The woman was unhurt, but the Allison Building didn’t fare so well — it’s the one that had to be demolished.
Beside the cleanup and erection of a fence, that’s about all that’s happened at the site.
Also for the record, the city of Asheville does not own the property, and it’s not in violation of city rules for vacant properties.
“It’s the owner’s responsibility to maintain their property in a safe condition,” City of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller said via email. “As long as the safe condition is maintained, the owner continues to have the right to realize the full value of their property over any given period of time.”
The property owner is listed in Buncombe County land records as Robert Johnson.
I last addressed this property in an Answer Man column in October 2021, when Beverly-Hanks Commercial Real Estate had been hired to sell it. Now, Keller Williams Professionals Realty is marketing the property, which it lists as four parcels on .30 acre.
Alan Aycock is the real estate agent marketing the property.
“If you could put a million dollars in, we could call it, ‘The Boyle Plaza,’” Aycock joked when I called him up.
That does have a ring to it. However, I checked and I do not have a spare mil lying around. If a hundred bucks could get me naming rights, negotiations can continue.
In all seriousness, Aycock said it’s “hard to beat the location,” as Merrimon Avenue is heavily traveled and the property sits between two red lights close to UNC Asheville. This property has just enough width and length “that you can reasonably develop it,” Aycock said, noting that he’s had one good prospect in the five to six months he’s been representing the property.
The two middle buildings are already down, of course, and Aycock said the two buildings on either end are in “really poor shape.”
“We’ve debated going ahead and tearing them down, but that’s fairly expensive, and you won’t get that money back from a developer,” Aycock said.
In short, the developer that takes on the project would have to demolish the existing buildings and prepare the site.
Aycock said the site would work well for retail on the first floor, and either offices, condos, apartments or hotel rooms on three floors above. He says the city likely would not be receptive to anything more than four stories, and he acknowledged that some kind of residential use on the upper floors would be most likely.
The site also could accommodate parking on a lower level, he said.
Previously, a couple of properties that lie behind the buildings fronting Merrimon were included in marketing plans, but that’s not the case this time, Aycock said. If you’re interested in the property, you can reach Aycock at 404-271-5957.
Question: Has the Asheville Citizen Times dropped syndicated columnists Eugene Robinson and Cal Thomas? I haven’t seen any of their articles for the past few weeks, maybe longer for Robinson. It was always interesting getting different points of view.
My answer: Yes, I too always found ultra-conservative Cal Thomas interesting, as I appreciated him educating all of us that every significant problem in America, from toenail fungus to the national debt, is the Democrats’ fault.
Real answer: I still read the paper myself, and I’ve also noticed the aforementioned columnists have been MIA from the Sunday paper, with Robinson gone for quite a while. Also, last year another liberal syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts, retired after a long career, so I know he’s missed too.
Last year, when I was still at the paper, its owner, Gannett Corp., had talked about cutting syndicated columnists, as well as letters to the editor, in part because they were divisive.
As Poynter.org reported last July, “Gannett has decided that the time for a traditional editorial page has come and gone. Beginning in the spring and accelerating this month, the 250-title chain is cutting back opinion pages to a few days a week while refocusing what opinion is still published to community dialogue.”
The Citizen Times’ Sunday editorial section now features a lot of local columnists. I find many of them interesting and thought-provoking, but, like the reader, I do miss the national guys.
I reached out to Citizen Times Executive Editor Karen Chávez, who responded via text, “You can have the reader email me.”
I explained that I, too, am a subscriber and would like an explanation, and she said she’d get me something, but I didn’t get anything by deadline, other than a suggestion to email Gannett’s corporate spokesperson.
This saga of non-answers took nine days, by the way. Why the newspaper can’t just inform all of us readers that a feature has been removed, and why, is beyond me, as paying customers have a right to know. I also reached out to Gannett’s regional editor via email and got no response.
Chávez’s email is KChavez@CitizenTimes.com
Let me know if you get a response!
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.