The Transylvania Times -

Our Anytown Corridor – Brevard, NC

 

August 29, 2019



Aesthetically, there are two commercial Brevard’s: downtown and the U.S. 64 corridor from Asheville. The downtown area is authentic and unique. Like many small southern towns, the downtown is anchored by the courthouse. Nearby are vibrant, locally-owned businesses. Nearly every business within a block of the intersection of Main and Broad streets is a locally-owned business. The same is true for most of the Heart of Brevard. In the heart of downtown, the streets are lined with trees and potted plants. Outside benches are available and sculptures of wildlife add to the ambiance. These attributes make downtown Brevard a welcoming place where people can enjoy a leisurely afternoon.

The U.S. 64 corridor from Pisgah Forest to Ingles is the polar opposite. It is lined mostly with regional or national chains with their prototypical buildings and parking lots that can be seen in hundreds of cities. There are some exceptions, but mostly its chain stores. The corridor has a “get in, get out” vibe where people make their purchases and leave.

These chain stores do contribute to our local economy. They provide goods that many residents need or want, and they provide hundreds of jobs.

The problem is not the existence of these businesses. The problem is they make the entrance to Brevard look like Anytown, USA.

It did not, and does not, have to be that way.

In March of 2014, the City of Brevard and other local government officials attended a three-day symposium entitled “Balancing Nature and Commerce in Transylvania County.” The keynote speaker, Ed McMahon, of the Urban Land Institute, spoke about the importance of land use planning. His thesis was that for towns in the future to thrive, they have to be unique, different from “Anytown, USA.”

“Communities that cannot differentiate themselves will have no competitive advantage,” said McMahon.

He said tourism is the second or third leading industry in every state and that to attract tourists and new residents, towns must offer something different. He specifically noted that the French Quarter draws people to New Orleans, Riverwalk in San Antonio is the most visited place in Texas and Chattanooga, Tenn., is one of the most desirable places in the Southeast to live and visit because it renovated its historical venues and added greenways along the Tennessee River.

In more general terms, McMahon said:

• “Community identity is more important that corporate design policy.”

• “Sameness is a minus, not a plus, in today’s world.”

• “New construction should enhance community character.”

McMahon said corporations have three building design options. One is the prototypical corporate model. The second is a slightly modified prototype, such as the cedar shingles instead of the red roof at the local Pizza Hut. The third is locating the business in an existing structure or building a new structure that fits with the historic architecture of the community. He emphasized corporations open new locations based on research that shows their likely profitability at that location. If communities ask, the corporations will make the necessary architectural adjustments.

“You just have to ask them,” said McMahon. (Dollar General did just that when asked by the residents of Connestee Falls and Cedar Mountain.)

Most of the city leaders, however, have balked at making those requests. In 2014, Gary Daniel, then chairman of the city’s Planning Board, said the city was violating its 2002 Land Use Plan in approving the plans for Brevard Place, which now contains a Bojangles (and nearby Dunkin’ Donuts) and soon will include a Holiday Inn, Cook Out and AT&T.

Now Daniel, who is a city council member, and Councilwoman Maureen Copelof are calling for the city to enforce its codes along the corridor.

“It would be nice if we enforce our codes on that corridor,” Daniel said at a recent city council meeting. “I’m pretty sure that Dunkin’ Donuts is not up to code, and as I said four years ago and why I ran for city council, the corridor’s code in Brevard is pretty disgraceful.”

Daniel and Copelof are right. The city needs to do more to ensure the U.S. 64 corridor is more attractive and unique. City leaders need to take steps to make the corridor more compatible with downtown Brevard than with Anytown, USA.

 
 

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