Date of Award


Document Type

Terminal Project

Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)


City Planning & Real Estate Development

Committee Member

Dr. Cliff Ellis, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Barry Nocks

Committee Member

Dr. John Gaber


Problem statement

Downtown Asheville, North Carolina is a popular travel destination, hosting thousands of visitors daily. This influx of tourism has led to rapid development downtown. As the city continues to grow and tourists continue to come, new tourist-driven construction downtown is occurring at a fast rate. Some locals fear the character of downtown, appreciated for its historic architecture, is being encroached upon by generic and out-of-context design seen in new developments.

New construction and addition to the urban landscape is not a problem in itself. If cities do not develop and grow, they stagnate. Over-regulating urban design can result in a kitsch, museum-like urban environment, while under-regulating it can lead to a loss of character or uniqueness and result in placelessness. The issue concerning the architectural character of Downtown Asheville is not so much style as it is quality. A well-designed city should be dynamic but cohesive.

The downtown does have a mandatory design review process in the form of the Downtown Design Review program. Though a mandatory review, compliance of recommendations is voluntary as long as a development project meets the City’s Unified Development Ordinance. Because of this, there is a push by locals, and general need, for stricter urban design review in the downtown.

Significance of study

Downtown Asheville is a special and unique place, currently undergoing a tourism boom. The downtown is seeing rapid construction of tourist-oriented developments that are changing the urban landscape by not fitting in with the surrounding architecture. More so, the new buildings downtown appear generic. If growth is not managed properly, and stricter design review is not considered, development to accommodate tourists could lead to placelessness in the urban fabric as a result of one-size-fits-all-design. This could erode the unique character that drew in tourists in the first place.

Research question

How should the City of Asheville strengthen its design review to preserve the architectural and cultural character of its downtown? The research will examine issues of community character and design review and determine the best practices for strengthening design review in downtown Asheville.