Because its tragedy was of a watery nature, the story of the old building across from Carrier Park at State Street and Amboy Road is not exactly that of a phoenix rising from the ashes. But the historic structure is certainly being reinvented after a disastrous history.
The floods of 2004 brought 8 feet of water into the building — previously a bar built in 1948 — sealing its fate after already being shuttered for five years. Slowly, the space hobbled back into the world of commerce as a small produce stand, but it’s now being primed to return to its former glory as a social hub, family gathering place and food spot.
The Asheville Food Park, projected to open in early June, plans to host a rotation of food trucks, a coffee and smoothie bar, a produce and fruit stand, local art sales, pet adoption events and a full bar that will stay open until 2 a.m.
Developer Dean Pistor says that the park will be very adaptable and open 360 days per year, with parking space for three food trucks at a time, occupying four-hour shifts for breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening munchies until 11 p.m. For special events such as a marathon or bike race at Carrier Park, food carts might be brought in that stock granola or fruit cups. Ice cream and lemonade carts might occupy spots during hot summer months.
He says that although the space does possess a full liquor license, the main goal is to focus on the food and the neighborhood aspect. “We’re not a bar. The idea here is to be foodcentric,” he says.
Pistor says neighborhood response to the renovation of the dilapidated building has been positive. And the produce stand, he says, meets a need in the area, which lacks grocery stores. “It will provide food that you can take home and cook with. We’ll be meeting a great community need, and it’s a great component here, being neighborhood-friendly.”
As history shows, the site sits in a flood-prone area, so it’s being re-created in a simplified format with treated wood and metal that can withstand a flood and be pressure-washed easily.
“You can wash all this out and be open 24 hours later,” says Pistor.
People will enter in the front and walk along a corridor in the middle. The bar is on the left, coffee on the right, with hanging ferns for sale all along the walkway. Space upstairs is being rented out for vendors, with storage for dry goods and a place for the food trucks to clean their large pots and pans. Walk toward the back to visit the food trucks or hang out at the bonfire area.
Even though Asheville currently has more than 40 licensed food trucks, out-of-town food trucks are also being scheduled to stop at the park, for those looking for something new. Pistor says that for many mobile ventures, booking vending spaces in advance is unusual. “They travel around, and it’s hard for them to find spots. I’m doing advance advertising now to bring them in,” he says.
Pistor says a key part of his vision is being the first step through the gateway to the River Arts District. He plans on displaying a variety of pieces from local artists, including metal arts, pottery and paintings. It’s all designed to be a year-round destination that not only meshes with activities at Carrier Park, but also stands alone as a spot to relax and take in some Asheville flavor away from downtown.
“In the fall we’ll be selling pumpkins; in December we’ll have Christmas trees,” says Pistor. “We really hope to be an asset to the neighborhood year-round and a fun place to visit.”