Smiling state and local officials wielding golden shovels were among those gathered June 29 for the official groundbreaking of Glen Rock Depot in the River District. The ambitious project, which calls for renovating the old Glen Rock Hotel and constructing a new 90,000 square foot building, will combine affordable housing, office space and a bar/performance venue.
Managed by Mountain Housing Opportunities, a local nonprofit, the ambitious project has already been in the works for four years. An adjacent historic structure was renovated in 2007 and is now occupied by the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas.
“It's often said that Asheville should be a great place to live, work and play,” MHO Executive Director Scott Dedman told the crowd. “I often think we give a lot of attention to the play part, but not the living and working part: the jobs and the housing… it’s all part of the picture.”
The project’s 18 backers include Mission Hospital, along with various banks and nonprofits; state and local tax credits are also helping with the funding. Glen Rock Depot will feature 60 rental apartments as well as retail space, offices and artists studios. The apartments will fall in the $325 to $700 a month range.
According to information provided by Mountain Housing Opportunities, the buildings will meet LEED environmental standards and are scheduled for completion next year.
Asheville Mayor (and former MHO director) Terry Bellamy praised the project, proclaiming, “Today is a great day. There are nearly 10,000 jobs within a one-mile radius of this neighborhood, and [project manager] Cindy Weeks saw that. Remember how bad it used to be four years ago, how much graffitti there was? How many abandoned cars there were? Today we're here as a testament to one person's vision.”
Inside the Glen Rock lies the future home of The Magnetic Field, a club and performance venue being launched by locals Jonathan Frappier and Chall Gray.
“We'll be able to seat about 50 in here,” said Frappier, indicating a portion of the site. “Fifty more up on the roof. We'll be the only performing-arts facility in the Southeast that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner as well. By doing that, we're not as dependent on ticket sales.”
“We're going to be the only place in not just Asheville but the Southeast that's focusing on original work,” Gray added.
Are they worried about opening up a club in tight economic times?
“I think that by being an anchor here, it allows us to create more jobs for everyone,” said Frappier. “This is actually a good time to do this because we can create a symbiotic relationship.”