Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Asheville Gets Downtown Right

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Asheville Gets Downtown Right

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

There's nothing wrong with stealing good ideas from other cities.

While I was on vacation last week, I spent several days in Asheville, N.C.

That city's downtown is thriving. Even on weekday afternoons, it was alive with people.

Outdoor dining there is plentiful. There are fascinating shops galore. Street performers and musicians enliven the scene.

Public art tells the city's rich history. That history, especially in its buildings, has been preserved, not erased.

I'm certainly not an expert on what makes a downtown successful, but one trait of Asheville's downtown stood out to me in particular.

Its narrow streets create a feeling of intimacy and easy connectivity that attracts rather than repels people.

Sure, Asheville has the mountains and fall foliage to lure visitors, but the St. Johns River that runs through the middle of Downtown Jacksonville and the other waterways throughout our city are just as spectacular.

Too many streets in Downtown Jacksonville, however, resemble runways for jumbo jets. Safely crossing them is a gamble and loved only by thrill seekers.

We have a history just as rich as Asheville's, but we don't celebrate it enough.

We have talented musicians and artists here, but you don't see them on a daily basis on Downtown's sidewalks entertaining people as you do in Asheville.

Regular performances in Hemming Park have been a good addition, but for Downtown to continue to rebound, it has to be about more than Hemming Park.

The new colorful murals adorning some Downtown buildings are adding pizazz, but the intriguing sculptures that abound in Asheville's downtown illustrate that much more can be done with public art.

With the changes that have come with time, Downtown Jacksonville has become poorly designed.

Many of its streets were built to get people in and out of Downtown quickly. …

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