PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Southside Community Stormwater Improvement Project

Since 2019, Wildlands Engineering (Wildlands) has been working on several green infrastructure project initiatives with our long-time partner RiverLink, a watershed group with the mission of promoting the environmental and economic vitality of the French Broad River and its watershed. Wildlands recently completed the Central Asheville Watershed Restoration Plan for Riverlink, which consisted of project identification and developing an interactive watershed plan. Within the watershed plan, projects were identified in multiple subwatersheds, including Nasty Branch which runs through the Southside Community. In the 1960s and 1970s, this and other nearby black communities were negatively impacted by urban renewal projects, which left a profound impact on the social structure and well-being of the community.

Over 1300 businesses and homes were lost from the Southside Community between the 1960’s and 1970’s.


Among the many projects identified, one stood out for its apparent need of creating a more functional space, safe environment, and resilient infrastructure at the Erskine Apartments – located along Livingston Street in the heart of Southside. The watershed plan identified proposed activities to target a drainage issue in the cul de sac on Water Street where water was seeping onto the road resulting in a bad odor and unsafe conditions, particularly in winter.  After further evaluation of the site and its contributing drainage and infrastructure, a multifaceted project was proposed to address multiple community needs as well as provide stormwater management to improve water quality in Nasty Branch.

In addition to the drainage issue, concrete stormwater swales and corrugated metal pipe systems from the original apartment construction in 1969 were failing, a powerline behind residences was very low to the ground creating an unsafe feeling environment, and areas of dense invasive vegetation created unusable spaces and consumed native trees and vegetation. Discussions with community leaders, meetings in the park, and door to door efforts lead to a list of community needs and desires that were assembled into a cohesive improvement plan to address as many considerations as possible.

Wildlands helped prepare technical information for grants to fund the project. Multiple entities contributed funding to the project including the apartment owner, the Asheville Housing Authority. The project used stormwater control measures called regenerative stormwater conveyance (RSC) channels to replace pipe and concrete ditches. These incorporate sand-based media to provide additional water quality treatment. Rain gardens and a stormwater wetland were implemented to capture parking lot and rooftop runoff; a french drain routed subsurface flow into the stormwater system to resolve road seepage; a power line relocation addressed the low overhead line; and trails and sitting areas for contemplation and to honor lost loved ones were incorporated into the project. The paths and a bridge over the RSC channel connect kids and community members to the nearby park, community center, school bus stops, and other nearby destinations. For more information, visit RiverLink’s Project Page »