by Leslee Kulba
Wild West blogger
Last night, Asheville City Councilwoman Gwen Wisler made sense, casting the lone vote in opposition to changing the terms of a loan for the Eagle Market Place development. When I had read the staff reports, I erred in assuming the unqualified term “arbitration” pertained to some form of financial situation, like a pending foreclosure or default. Instead, it pertains to legal action being taken because of the faulty concrete pour that was best solved through demolition of a significant amount of work on the project, which was supposed to have been completed by the end of 2014.
The big issue for members of city council was dropping the loss of Affordable housing units. Again, the staff report was so PC, I did not know the original plan was to create 62 units of Affordable (less than 30 percent of household income for a family earning 50-80 percent of AMI) housing, but the developers were now requesting to make 24-30 of them Workforce (less than 30 percent of household income for a family earning 80-120 percent of AMI).
Wisler and Mayor Esther Manheimer shared some facts. The terms of the original agreement committed the city to investing $5 million in the project. Wisler estimated the total the city would spend under the original contract would be around $83,000 per unit of affordable housing constructed, as opposed to the city’s average investment of $20,000. In order to keep all the units Affordable, it was suggested the city fork over another $3 million, which would bring the city’s per-unit subsidy to $135,000-$170,000. At $100 per square foot, one could get some largish, middle-class apartments somewhere for that alone.
Councilman Gordon Smith was of a different mind. He argued the city was not only getting subsidized housing on prime real estate, the subsidized housing would be part of a transformational project with historical preservation and community benefits.