Leaders from the city of Asheville, Buncombe County, and the Block neighborhood joined together this morning, Aug. 27, to announce that the Eagle Market Place mixed-use project will move forward. Last Thursday, Aug. 23, the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency approved $7 million in funds for the $11.1 million project. The city and county will pitch in about $4 million.
"This is almost 20 years in the making," said Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, who has often pushed for redevelopment of the area in her time on Council. "Since being elected to City Council, this is one thing the African-American community has talked about — that the city has turned its back on the community because this wasn't done ... Today we're going to do something about it."
The announcement was given in the lobby of the Del Cardo building, one of three — along with the Dr. Collette and Ritz buildings — that the project will restore.
"When I was growing up, this was the highlight of economic development for the African-American community," Bellamy said. But the "urban renewal" of the 1970s devastated the area, leaving much of it abandoned for many years as several development proposals failed to get the necessary funding or approval.
Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy announced that Eagle Market Place has enough funding from the state to go forward.
As a partnership between the Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation and Mountain Housing Opportunities, Eagle Market Place will include affordable housing as well as commercial and community place. Stephanie Swepson-Twitty, the Development Corporation's CEO, noted that before urban renewal, the area had 70 residences and 20 businesses. The new project will bring 62 units of housing and 15 to 20 businesses back to the Block. Rents for the housing will range from $200 to $780 a month.
"We have had strong community support," Swepson-Twitty said. "We could not be more thankful today."
"This is a game-changing event," Board of Commissioners Chair David Gantt said. "We've got to give back, especially to a community that's been ignored by everybody."
Gantt touted estimates that the project will bring 500 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs to the area.
Gene Ellison, a lawyer and former Council member active in the redevelopment of the area, said this was the best of the many plans he'd seen over the years and teared up while remembering his late law partner Howard McGlohon.
Attorney Gene Ellison, active for many years in the Block's redevelopment, cheering the news that the Eagle Market Place project will go forward
"We're better when we work together," Ellison noted. "I think that's one thing you get about the Block. If you saw Goombay this weekend: how innovative, creative, diverse and inclusive it is."
Construction of Eagle Market Place begins next year, and will be completed 18 to 24 months later.