Today’s pile of burning questions, my smart answers, and the real deal:
Question: My apologies if you’ve answered this question before, as I’m certainly not the only person concerned about this. This is about the mammoth bridge over the railroad tracks near the old Enka factory on the Smokey Park Highway. Someone had big plans that obviously didn’t work out. could they still? Who owns this bridge? And what is it for?
My answer: “Mammoth Bridge” would be a catchy name for it, and we locals could tell tourists that this is how you get to see the woolly remains of mammoths in the Enka Tar Pits.
Real answer: This “bridge to nowhere,” as some people call it, has quite a history behind it.
I wrote about it in 2016 when it was still under construction. At the time, developer Martin Lewis, a member of Fletcher Partners, the group developing the site, said the five-lane, $3.5 million bridge would lead to a new retail complex called The Enka Center, as well as a sports complex.
At one point, plans called for major retail on the site, even a possible Walmart, and rumors of a Costco swirled. While the baseball fields at Bob Lewis Ballpark came into their own, none of the retail outlets did.
Recently, the Asheville City Council approved what appears to be an Amazon distribution center on the site — a 130,000-square-foot distribution center operated by Samet Corp. was built, which has built other Amazon distribution centers, including the one in Mills River.
But as I wrote last December, the construction plans for Enka’s $30 million distribution center appear to be on hold. An official at the Samet company said via email, “Our client has halted our progress on the project at Enka.”
More:Enka distribution center will create 355 jobs, advances at city council meeting
So back to the bridge question.
“The North Carolina Department of Transportation will add the bridge to the state-maintained system upon completion of a new highway construction project in the area, scheduled for completion in October 2022,” Michael Clark, project engineer at NCDOT’s Asheville office, said via email.
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The works are in progress.
“An access road is under construction from the upcoming signalized intersection of Smokey Park Highway and Enka Heritage Road, which will terminate at the intersection of Walk Off Way and Enka Heritage Road,” Clark said. “The project will provide access to current and future industries from the Smokey Park Highway.”
I contacted Lewis but received no response by the deadline.
Chris Collins, manager of planning and development for the City of Asheville, said of plans for the distribution center that his office has “not received any revised materials or requests to revoke these permits.”
Question: When I saw your Jake Rusher story, I thought of the old Brookwood Golf Course that you wrote about in 2017. I wonder if anything will ever happen to this country? It seems it would be an excellent spot for a park, for a part of the county that’s seriously lacking in them.
My answer: With the number of mammoths buried there it would make a great natural history park indeed. By the way, I will be selling tickets.
Real answer: As I discovered in 2017, this 43.75-acre piece of land has been empty and overgrown for well over a decade. Before the Great Recession of 2008-09, it was once approved for a 156-unit development of apartments, townhouses and single-family homes, but that never happened, in part because the site is not connected to public sewers.
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Buncombe County planning director Nathan Pennington said there are no new plans or inquiries for the site.
The property, which is technically located at 455 Mills Gap Road near the intersection with Weston Road, has a taxable value of $1.47 million, according to the county.
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Owner is listed as 3654 SC Road LLC. The registered agent of this company is Kevin Geagan. I contacted Geagan via text message.
“There’s nothing to report at the moment,” he said. “If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”
This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or firstname.lastname@example.org