Press release from First Baptist Church of Asheville and the YMCA of Western North Carolina:
First Baptist Church of Asheville (FBCA) and the YMCA of Western North Carolina (YMCA) are uniting on a bold and unprecedented project to develop their neighboring properties as a walkable urban village that helps meet community needs for affordable workforce housing, early childhood development and education, health and well-being, and more.
Between them, the church and the YMCA own approximately 10 acres in downtown Asheville at the eastern gateway of the central business district. With the working name “Project Aspire,” these mission-based organizations hope to transform their shared landscape for the next 100 years of community service.
The design will prioritize sustainable building systems, public green spaces, and pedestrian connectivity, ensuring that the development is environmentally responsible and accessible to all. It will feature:
- affordable and market-rate housing options
- new state-of-the art YMCA
- business incubation space
- green spaces and outdoor gathering areas
- hospitality with meeting space
- office buildings
- community-oriented retail shops
- ample structured parking
“We understand the importance of designing a community that reflects the diversity of Asheville and creates a sense of belonging for all residents. Our commitment to inclusiveness and our passion for excellence has led us to numerous points of outreach and will guide us as we work towards realizing this vision,” said Mack Dennis, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Asheville.
These plans are consistent with community goals identified in the Living Asheville Plan and are in line with the charitable missions of FBCA and the YMCA. Both organizations are nonprofits with common values, including community engagement and seeking to help Asheville flourish. Both are concerned about issues of justice, equity, and healthy living. As neighbors for more than five decades, they believe working together will help them serve for generations to come.
“Our goal is to create a dynamic and inclusive environment where people can live, work, and play in downtown Asheville, making it a destination not just for guests and visitors, but for the residents of the greater Asheville community as well,” said Paul Vest, president and CEO of the YMCA of Western North Carolina. “This plan also allows the Asheville YMCA to stay open during construction of a new state-of-the-art YMCA.”
The lead real estate development partner is the Furman Co. from Greenville, S.C. Together the partners have presented a conceptual masterplan in a conditional zoning application to the City of Asheville.
“The final design will be the result of careful consideration of community feedback, regulatory requirements, and best practices in urban planning,” said Steve Navarro, president of the Furman Co. “Our commitment to excellence and our commitment to the residents of Asheville will guide us as we work towards realizing this vision.”
The development plans will address many community issues and has been conceived in partnership with leaders from the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, and non-governmental organizations to align with the Living Asheville plan. The church and the Y have been discussing their plans with a variety of neighborhood and civic groups, potential partners, and other nonprofits to gain valuable insight and to ensure the plan meets community needs. These discussions will continue as the project moves forward.
The site will be developed in two phases over the next 10 years. The soonest construction would start is the end of 2024 to the beginning of 2025. Phase 1 would involve the development of the area between the church’s side entrance and College Street, including building the new YMCA, hotel, parking deck, green space/park, office space, and retail. Phase 2, projected to begin in at completion of Phase I, will develop the property between the front doors of the church and the current Asheville YMCA. That area will become a mixture of affordable, workforce, and market rate housing, offices, retail, parking, and green space.
First Baptist Church of Asheville’s historic structure will not move or be altered in any way. The new Y will be built between Charlotte Street, Oak Street, and Woodfin Street, and the existing Asheville Y on Woodfin Street will remain open during construction.
ABOUT THE PROJECT PARTNERS
First Baptist Church of Asheville
First Baptist Church of Asheville embodies a vision of beautiful belonging. Inspired by the Spirit, and by the congregation’s character and dreams spanning generations, the phrase “beautiful belonging” expresses our unique gifts and deepest longings. The present church building, and fifth of First Baptist’s worship facilities, was designed by architect Douglas D. Ellington and was completed in 1927. It is one of Asheville’s greatest architectural treasures, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Please see fbca.net to learn more.
YMCA of Western North Carolina
The nonprofit YMCA of Western North Carolina strengthens local communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Founded in 1889, the YMCA of WNC engages more than 100,000 people – regardless of age, income, or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the region’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support the community. It does this through seven YMCAs, dozens of program sites, and YMCA Camp Watia. As the state’s largest provider of licensed school-age childcare, it gives more than 1,000 children a day the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive. For more information, please visit ymcawnc.org.
The Furman Co.
The Furman Co. has provided comprehensive solutions in real estate for over 130 years. In 1888, its founders paved the way for local development, education, and growth in commerce. Today, they continue the tradition of local expertise while offering a network of services. The Furman Co.’s expertise is strategically focused on real estate development and real estate investment advisory services. Its mission is to deliver sophisticated advisory services with integrity and quality assurance, creating sustainable value for its clients, employees, and community by thinking collaboratively, but acting practically, and keeping clients first. For more information, please visitfurmanco.com.
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