UPDATED Eagle-Market renaissance: New life for The Block at last?


According to buzz on Twitter and Facebook today, Mountain Housing Opportunities has announced that funding is complete and major plans for $11 million renovations in the Eagle/Market Street area are going ahead.

Official statement here:

On Thursday, August 23, the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) awarded approximately $7 million in new funds to Eagle Market Place, a partnership of Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation (EMSDC) and Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO). This new commitment of $7 million from NCHFA is in addition to over $4.1 million already committed in loans and grants from the City of Asheville and Buncombe County – a total of $11.1 million committed. This new award from NCHFA ensures that Eagle Market Place will move forward, with construction to begin in 2013. Overview of Eagle Market Place

• Eagle Market Place, a planned mixed use development that includes renovation of three historic buildings and construction of one new building, will total over 90,000 SF built to Energy Star standards.

• Three historic buildings will be restored and incorporated into the mixed use complex: the Dr. Collette building on Eagle Street, the Del Cardo building at the corner of Eagle and South Market Streets, and the Ritz Building on South Market Street. The buildings will be handicapped accessible throughout.

• Eagle Market Place will provide 62 affordable/workforce apartments, over 6,000 SF of community and neighborhood space, and almost 7,000 SF of commercial, retail, and office space. There will be 42 one-bedroom apartments, 17 two-bedroom apartments, and 3 three-bedroom apartments. Rents will range from approximately $200 for smaller units to $780 for the largest units.

• Apartment amenities include spacious floor plans, balconies, Energy Star appliances, washer/dryer hook-ups, beautiful interior lighting, ceiling fans, ample closet space with pantry and master bedroom walk-in closet, and long term storage units for each apartment.

• Site amenities include a beautifully landscaped interior courtyard, an indoor playground, laundry facilities, fitness center, computer/business center, leasing office, large community/multipurpose room with full kitchen, covered drop off area, and youth center. An additional $150,000 is being raised by EMSDC and MHO from charitable donors to enhance and enrich the public and community spaces, including historic renovations and landscaping. The Chaddick Foundation has contributed $10,000 toward historic signage and displays.

• The overall design strategy is to “remember the past and plan for the future.” Historic displays and signage will commemorate “The Block” and its significance in Asheville’s history.

• Eagle Market Place will infuse this historic African American neighborhood and Asheville’s downtown with over $11 million of new investment. Approximately 500 construction workers in various trades will build Eagle Market Place over the course of the 18-24 month construction period. The proposed construction timeline is June 1, 2013 through June 1, 2015. NC Contractors including local contractors will be selected for the work, and minority and women owned businesses will be actively sought and included.

• Approximately 50 permanent jobs will be created in the apartments, businesses, and community space.

• An independent market study demonstrates huge demand for apartments at Eagle Market Place, estimating that there are over 2,200 families or individuals who will seek these 62 apartments. There are over 10,000 workers who work within one mile of the Eagle Market Place site and earn less than $40,000 per year in wages or salary – the target income market for the apartments at Eagle Market Place.

From Asheville City Council member Gordon Smith on Facebook today:

It’s a historic day for Asheville. Eagle Market Place, an $11.1 million mixed use development with 62 affordable housing units, has gotten all necessary funding to move ahead. Thanks to Eagle Market Street Development Corporation, MHO, NCHFA, Buncombe County Commissioners, Asheville City Council, and everyone else who cooperated to get this done.

The latest in a long line of proposals, this new effort differentiates itself in a big way: It looks like it’s actually going to happen.

The Block area has a troubled history many (most?) white Ashevilleans don’t know.  It’s unrecognizable from the Block in its heyday, before several forces, including ’60s-era city “renewal” efforts replacing black-owned residences and businesses with Pack Place and parking garages, cut the heart out of black Asheville. A bustling, socially inviting area that once held offices, drugstores, residences, a hotel, pool hall, liquor store, gas station and a grocery store is now a blighted few streets home to far fewer businesses, the YMI, and deserted buildings with broken windows and graffiti.

The concept that just received funding will transform some of the Block’s declining iconic buildings. Plans include a mixed-used complex including 65-70 units of workforce/affordable residential rentals priced at $200-$800 per month, partial rehabilitation of the Dr. Collette building (the blighted, boarded-up building down from Limones) into offices and a youth center, and a complete rehabilitation of the Del Cardo building on the corner into commercial office, retail and small business incubation space.

From the Urban News:

The complex also includes five rental town-home style units, with individual entrances on S. Market Street across from the YMI Cultural Center. Each will have a small stoop to encourage the return of residential street life to the Block.

It was noted that historical records show that 65-75 homes existed in buildings and small homes on and near the Block before the advent of Pack Place, the parking garage, and other results of urban renewal in the 1960s. The new structure, called Eagle Market Place, will try to restore that density with 70 apartments ranging in size from one tothree bedrooms, including the townhouses.

The apartments will rent for $200 to $800 per month, so they will be affordable to people on fixed and limited incomes; the townhomes will rent for slightly higher rates, though still well below typical downtown prices.

Check out this well-produced recent Kickstarter video for a public mural on the Block. It shares a fascinating piece of Asheville history, and includes interviews with black Ashevilleans who share what the Block used to be.

Read the whole Urban News story here:  A new vision for The Block

PDF of Eagle Street, including Dr. Collette Building and Del Cardo Building


2012 year in review: Top Ten local news stories January 1, 2013 - 3:38 pm

[…] Downtown renaissance, times two:  Rebirth on the south side? The forgotten south side of downtown seems about to explode with new businesses. Meanwhile, The Block (Eagle/Market streer area, Asheville’s former black district) is also set to be rebo… […]

hauntedheadnc August 28, 2012 - 6:31 pm

Why do you think the area went bust in the first place, Doug Sahm? I was under the impression it was mainly because urban “renewal” removed this business district’s customer base.

Doug Sahm August 28, 2012 - 4:21 pm

Are we too PC to discuss why this area went bust in the place? How are they ensuring that history will not repeat itself for “The Block”?

hauntedheadnc August 28, 2012 - 9:56 am

jmwhistler — It really doesn’t upset me at all, and I’ve already explained why. Nothing matches downtown anyway. Not the scale or the architecture.

hauntedheadnc August 27, 2012 - 10:21 pm

The new construction would hardly “dwarf” the block. That “out of scale” argument is always the NIMBY rallying cry whenever anything is proposed anywhere downtown and it’s quite frankly ridiculous.

There is no set scale in downtown Asheville. Tall buildings stand beside short ones, and the architecture of the various buildings goes out of its way to clash. That unrestrained mishmash is part of why downtown Asheville feels as dynamic and vital as it does.

It’s also my understanding that this project saves the facades of the buildings that will be incorporated into the larger project, which is about as good as it gets when you are trying to add new growth and construction to an established area.

All in all, this is an excellent project and I would rather see it rise than to see the Block sit and rot for another twenty or thirty years. Enough is enough. Build it and bring this neighborhood back to life!

jmwhistler August 28, 2012 - 6:36 am

Haunted: How do you feel about 7-story buildings sitting on top of 2-3 story buildings, structurally overlapping those that have been mostly demolished (keeping facades only). I tend to think that is not great urban design. I do not object to height. I object clunky massing. This project is shoehorned into an inappropriate site.

ouch August 27, 2012 - 4:31 pm

Yes, I’m curious about the effects of this development. Not that change is bad, but sometimes it benefits certain groups of people more than others…I’ve had too many experiences in urban neighborhoods of revitalization and development projects whose PR is impeccable but end up displacing and disenfranchising people. I’d like to see more reporting about this, featuring various opinions of people who work/live nearby.

jmwhistler August 27, 2012 - 3:25 pm

Contrary to the press release, this development project does not entail renovation of three historic buildings in the historic Eagle-Market Street neighborhood. Plans call for renovation of one building, the Del Cardo Building on the corner of Eagle and Market. They also call for near total demolition of the Dr. Collette Building (one-story on Eagle Street) and the Ritz Building (on Market Street.) New construction associated with the project will dwarf the YMI and The Block. Would like to see Ashvegas and other local media explore the effects of the demolition and large scale new construction on the historic neighborhood.

Scott Dedman August 27, 2012 - 2:19 pm

Thanks for the coverage, Jason!

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