Building demolitions on Spruce and Market streets to move forward

Building demolitions on Spruce and Market streets to move forward-attachment0

A downtown Asheville church’s plans to tear down two buildings it owns in the city’s historically African-American business district received the final approval Friday morning.

The Asheville Downtown Commission voted 7-3 in favor of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church’s plans to demolish a 10,000-square-foot building built in 1915 at 40 S. Spruce St. and a 15,000-square-foot building built in 1920 at 51. S. Market St. The three-story brick structures housed the operations of Asheville Supply & Foundry until about 1950. The area, which includes Eagle Street and the landmark YMI Cultural Center, is known as The Block.

The area has been the target of redevelopment efforts for 20 years. But while downtown development has boomed over the past two decades, there’s been little development progress on The Block. The church’s efforts to redevelop the buildings have also never come to fruition. Roy Harris, chairman of the church’s trustees, said the buildings have become a financial drain. Homeless people have moved in and trashed the interior, Harris said, and the expense of maintenance and property taxes on the empty buildings has grown too large for the church to bear.

The church’s demolitions plans came as a surprise to the downtown advisory board, which put off making a decision in the hope of finding a way to save the buildings, which have some historical value and remain in good shape. City officials offered to help the church seek tax relief, and offered to lease space from the church for parking. The city said the church pays $13,386 in annual property taxes, and said the church would earn $13,200 a year by leasing 22 parking spaces at $50 per space per month.

Mount Zion’s pastor and president, the Rev. John Grant, wrote to city planner Judy Daniel in a July 9 letter that the church was interested in renting 22 existing parking spaces to the city, and was interested in discussing options on how to save a third church-owned building in the old foundry complex at 35 Eagle St. But Grant, without further explanation, wrote that he wasn’t interested in further negotiations regarding the Spruce and Market streets properties.

Jan Davis, a commission member and Asheville City Council member, said, “I think we as a body have done everything we can do,” and made the motion to allow the demolition.

Commission member Harry Weiss said he understood the church’s reasons for demolition, but opposed the plan.

“I understand why it’s occurring, but I can’t support it,” Weiss said. “I want to go on record as saying this is a bad option. It’s lousy all the way around.”

After the meeting, Harris said demolition may not start for several weeks. The church has to complete a vacation bible school and be sure its timetable fits with the schedule of the demolition crew it plans to hire.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor

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26 thoughts on “Building demolitions on Spruce and Market streets to move forward

  1. travelah

    Imagine the outcry if a white businessman wanted to tear down the building in the “historic African-American district” to put in a parking lot. Where is Joni Mitchell when you need her???

  2. PPR

    Does nobody in this town understand private property rights?

    Ownership of Private Property is exclusive rights and control over the property. If, the government can tell you what you can do with your private property you are not secure in your property and it is no longer your property for you do not have total control (Security). It is my opinion that the government does not have any right or rights to put ANY CONTROLS of any type on private property at all. The government DOES NOT own the property. The value of your property is in what you can do with it. Not what you can’t do with it.

  3. Piffy!

    [b]It is my opinion that the government does not have any right or rights to put ANY CONTROLS of any type on private property at all.[/b]

    that certainly is an opinion.

  4. PPR

    It is my opinion that the government does not have any right or rights to put ANY CONTROLS of any type on private property at all.

    And a CORRECT opinion at that.

  5. hauntedheadnc

    PPR, be that as it may, we’re still losing two irreplaceable historic buildings. And for what? Parking lots. That’s upsetting.

  6. PPR

    If, y’all think so highly of these buildings why, don’t see if they will sell them to you? Then you can do as you see fit.

  7. chnat76

    We are losing our grip! Better take hold, and hold on to what you love; otherwise, economic hardship will take it away! KEEP your RIGHT to and be CREATIVE!

  8. Ezekiel

    Unless I missed something, the article doesn’t say the buildings will be torn down to create parking lots, only that the city offered to lease parking from the church as a way to offset the property taxes and make demolition unnecessary. So what are the plans once the buildings are down? I hope this isn’t a backdoor way of removing old, historic buildings to make way for new high rise development.

  9. Bjorn

    Just what we need more parking lots, condos & over priced slapped together hotels! It’s hard to believe there’s been little development progress on The Block.

  10. hauntedheadnc

    Ezekiel, previous articles about this issue have noted that the church plans to tear the buildings down to build parking lots.

  11. Ezekiel

    And they were built in 1915 and 1920? Surely these are some of Asheivlle’s oldest still-standing commercial buildings. Sad to see them go to make way for asphalt.

  12. orulz

    There are plenty of other existing buildings in downtown from this age, but that doesn’t make these any less valuable.

    I really think that by tearing these buildings down, the church is doing itself and The Block a disservice.

    What is it that made the renaissance of downtown Asheville possible? One big factor is the tremendous number of old buildings available for renovation. If Asheville had torn most of its historic buildings down, it would look more like Charlotte or Durham or Raleigh: no character, no “heart” to the city.

    It was only AFTER most of the historic buildings had been restored that new construction started happening downtown.

    If they want The Block to become a revitalized neighborhood, two things need to happen. First, follow the example from the rest of downtown, and DON’T TEAR THESE buildings down. Second, realize that The Block’s glory days as the center of the black community in Asheville were during segregation. Don’t get so hung up on “It has to be JUST LIKE IT WAS, all the businesses owned by black people” etc. We can’t and shouldn’t bring segregation back. In other words, let it develop naturally.

    The church actually put forth a proposal several years ago to turn these buildings into condos, but the community was outraged, OUTRAGED! at the thought of gentrification in a location one block from Pack Square.

    In any case, many of the buildings that now form the commercial core of downtown Asheville sat vacant and derelict for decades, many of them occupied by squatters, before getting renovated. Why the big rush now? The consensus seems to be that they are very solid buildings and are in no danger of collapse. Surely a community fundraiser could raise enough money to pay the property tax to save them, and to lock them up more securely so that vagrants can’t set up shop.

  13. PPR

    Ephraim states: Eminent domain

    Use of Eminent Domain in a case like this is unconstitutional no matter what the Supreme Court ruler. It is theft of private property rights and was never intended to be used in this way.

    Why, don’t you see if they will sell them to you? Then you can do as you see fit.

    Once again: Does nobody in this town understand private property rights?

    Ownership of Private Property is exclusive rights and control over the property. If, the government can tell you what you can do with your private property you are not secure in your property and it is no longer your property for you do not have total control (security). It is my opinion that the government does not have any right or rights to put ANY CONTROLS of any type on private property at all. The government DOES NOT own the property. The value of your property is in what you can do with it. Not what you can’t do with it.

  14. travelah

    PPR, I know this might come as a shock but the SCOTUS constitutionally is the final say on what is constitutional regardless of what somebody on the internet might whine about.

  15. PatD

    “What is historic about them other than being old?”

    What does one say to something like this?
    Yes, I get it …. nothing

  16. ginny daley

    This is truly a shame. I can see so much more possibility in this property than parking.

    For those of you who asked, the age of these buildings is not what makes them significant. Along with the 3rd Asheville Supply & Foundary building (which Mt. Zion also owns), these buildings provide the only remaining physical and visual link to a significant aspect of Asheville’s development as a town. This section of town originally developed as the primary service or industrial sector of downtown. This is where the critical mass of liveries, coal & wood for heating, foundries, carpenters were located in the 1800s and early 1900s. The Asheville Supply & Foundry Co. buildings are (as far as I know) the ONLY remaining buildings representing that aspect of the town’s history/development.

    Also these service industries/businesses employed African Americans in the late 19th century and contributed to this area of town being developed as one of the most significant African American communities in Asheville during Jim Crow.

    Demolishing these buildings won’t alter history, but keeping them in the landscape would provide a visual and visceral link to Asheville’s history and evolution.

    I wish that a preservation organization would step in and place an option on the property until a suitable buyer could be found. But the current economy makes that difficult and maybe Mt. Zion doesn’t want to sell.

  17. PPR

    Travalah states: PPR, I know this might come as a shock but the SCOTUS constitutionally is the final say on what is constitutional regardless of what somebody on the internet might whine about.

    PPR replies: No shock. Final say only till a different case comes a long, and hopefully a correct ruling is put in place. But, on the other hand they also told the states they could make a law against their ruling, which by the way is unconstitutional.

    Like a lot of state, county and city governments they, in my opinion, still do not understand private property rights.

    Also, I think you will find that most that is written or on TV or spoken by the people on the street that they believe that SCOTUS – ruled wrong.

  18. orulz

    I don’t think that eminent domain would be necessary here at all. If the city or any preservation organization can come up with a reasonable offer to buy the buildings, I bet the church would take it.

    But where are we going to come up with that kind of money? Lord only knows that the city can’t afford it.

  19. A.GUYTON

    I don’t think that it is about the age of the property,from what I see is the fact that “PEOPLE of COLOR ” / taxpayer’s in ASHEVILLE are the 4th/5 CLASS CITIZEN.
    The SLAVE AUCTION BLOCK is now the “The Block”.
    The last stand and present’s of a rich/diverse legacy is being wipe out of the book’s of history.
    To me that’s the bottomline,not being able to say here is where we can meet and enjoy our past.
    Out of the 1600 community’s that was thore down for whatever reason Asheville is the only city that remove a community of taxpayer to build a parking lot for the city dumptruck’s ect.
    This is taking place now with “BURTON”,street community.
    And for those who would make a joke out of a event like this “the poison you watch other’s eat will soon be serve to you”…..
    TAXPAYER/CITIZEN…

  20. ginny daley

    To A.GUYTON – You do realize that this property is owned by an African American church that has resided in on the Block location since the 1910s. And that it is their decision to tear these buildings down. It seems to me that people of color have control of the situation in this case. Correct me if I’m wrong, as I’m not sure I’m getting your point.

    And I am certainly not criticizing the church for their decision – its their property and I appreciate they have to do what’s best for them. Just wish it didn’t have to be this way.

  21. A.Guyton

    Greeting:Fellow Citizen and to MRS/MS Daley have you ever took a slow look at this area?
    They are a number of PROGRAMS/PROJECTS that could have used this space for example,the homeless/displace Citizens and there is here in ASHEVILLE GO-GREEN.org and more, could have made it a place where Citizen’s of all walk’s can meet and greet?
    That was it,but when you do research on this city’s past,the present sing’s the same song.
    As for the people who approve of this matter “Shame on them” when you see the photo’s from 1910-50? This area defeated all sterotype’s,you had 68%homeownership and more.
    Now what do we have in this area,a parking lot,a small stripmall that get overlooked,no tour’s of this area legacy of anykind, police/jail on one side and the city work truck’s on aother.
    Then you have aother parkinglot,and a smaller strip mall if you want to call it that,and let’s not forget the park.
    Also how many job’s will this parkinglot bring?
    How many job’s would it bring on fixing the place up?How many office’s/daycare’s/factory’s /gardening/housing/shelter could you get out of 10,000 sq feet?
    This property in ? belong to the community of EASTEND and not the broard of mountzoin.
    Thankyou Fellow Citizen’s of Asheville/Mountain Xpress.

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