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1980-1981: Save Downtown Asheville

Celebrate Downtown Asheville's Uniqueness

Here is the story of how that was almost lost and the role that Wayne and Kathryn played in the Save Downtown Asheville movement.

Downtown Renewal

Watch the 1980 video of Kathryn Long's  interview for NC public TV. Included are scenes from downtown "pre-renovation."export for conversion.mp4

Proposed Plan

This was the footprint of the proposed downtown mall. (click image to view larger) or here for additional images to scroll through.

27 Views of Asheville

27 Views of Asheville, from Eno Publications, is available wherever books are sold. (Paperback, $15.95) Edited by Rob Neufeld, it contains pieces from twenty-seven local writers, including Wayne Caldwell, who offered “Rattlesnakes,” a fictional account of the downtown mall struggle. A great gift idea!

Dedicated to the "group of 1,000" and all who worked to save Downtown Asheville.

 As we have reported, 2012 is the thirty-fifth anniversary of Ambiance Interiors. We almost didn’t make this milestone, because the buildings housing us during our first thirty-two years were almost taken by eminent domain.


In March 1980, Asheville announced a partnership with Strouse, Greenberg & Co. of Philadelphia to tear down some seventeen acres of downtown (the City’s part) and build a suburban-style shopping mall on the site (the developer’s part).


On March 25 we hosted a meeting of concerned citizens, merchants, renters, and other soreheads at 25 Broadway, home of our parent company, Sluder Furniture. Out of that meeting came Save Downtown Asheville Inc., with our own Wayne Caldwell as chairman.


For the next year and a half, Save Downtown Asheville attended every City Council and Planning & Zoning meeting, befriended politicians at all levels, and mounted a street campaign with posters, newsletters, buttons, and a “wrap” of the proposed area. We spoke at public hearings and civic organizations. Kathryn was interviewed by UNC-TV. We solicited money and lobbied HUD, the NC Local Government Commission, and historic preservation organizations. Wayne’s young children saw him on WLOS-TV more than at the dinner table.


The City, unimpressed, designated the Housing Authority as redevelopment commission for the project, declared the area “blighted” under state Urban Renewal statutes, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the developer. All systems, save one, were “go.”


They needed forty million dollars, and wanted to use revenue bonds. But the Local Government Commission said they must float general obligation bonds, which voters must approve.


Save Downtown Asheville found energy to form a political arm to defeat the referendum question. This culminated in late October’s televised Town Meeting at First Baptist, at which anti-mall people had fun and pro-mall people didn’t. On November 4, 1981, the bonds failed by 2-1.



 To the City’s credit, it formed a Mayor’s Task Force, and within six months the ball began to roll in the right direction. Today, Asheville, that Cesspool of Sin, is a model for other towns’ revitalization efforts.


After all these years we at Ambiance are still grateful to all who gave money, time, and energy to defeat this project. Ironically, as downtown thrived, we found an opportunity to move!


We love being convenient for clients and close to downtown for lunch. If you haven’t visited 189 East Chestnut, come see us about updating your personal retreat . . . because life is too short not to be comfortable!

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Ambiance Interiors • 189 E Chestnut St. • Asheville, NC 28801
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