July 31, 2012. Dr. J. Rosie Tighe, a geography and planning professor at Appalachian State University, has received a $10,000 grant from Oak Ridge Associated Universities for a project examining Asheville’s current major redevelopment plans in contrast to urban renewal programs in the past.
The project focuses on Asheville’s East Riverside neighborhood, which is relatively poor and predominantly African-American.
“During the urban renewal program in the 1960s and 1970s, this area bore the brunt of projects that removed existing homes to make way for new public housing and ‘modern’ infrastructure and amenities,” Tighe said in her grant proposal titled “Urban Renewal Redux? Asheville’s Urban Planning Approach, Then and Now.”
She said this has caused residents to have a deep mistrust of the local government and urban planning projects. Currently, Asheville is planning a major redevelopment project for the same neighborhood.
Preliminary research for the project began in October 2011. Tighe will use the grant funds to investigate historic archives along with the current planning process to show how the policy and planning efforts have changed over the years. She said she hopes to bring attention to the needs of the neighborhood residents that are not being addressed through the planning process and develop a plan for the city to prevent and lessen displacement of current residents as a result of revitalization efforts.
She is conducting interviews this summer with city officials and residents of the neighborhood with help from Tim Opelt, a graduate student in the Department of Geography. They hope the information will allow city officials to gain a better understanding of the neighborhood and to encourage communication between the officials and the residents.
Tighe said she plans to present what she has found at national conferences so others in the planning profession can apply the information in their own cities and towns.
“I’m really grateful for the grant money. It will enable me to finish this research and spend the summer really focusing on the project,” said Tighe. “I would like to thank the university and the Oak Ridge Associated Universities for this opportunity.”