Matthew

"The Block" revitalization back on the table

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Why not just let them build a 12 storey building. That would give them a great return on their investment, add more people to the streets and the new construction project they want. I am glad they are thinking of letting renovation work start, while they fight over the new construction residential project. I too question new construction on a historic building, but I at least want to see the plans first, before giving my final opinion.

ASHEVILLE - Property owners on Monday floated two alternate plans for revitalizing The Block ahead of a scheduled key vote on the future of the city's historic African-American business district today.

But there was no apparent consensus on which of the three now on the table was best among the 70 people attending a meeting called by City Councilwoman Terry Bellamy in hopes of working out a compromise. City officials said there are serious problems with the two new plans and have recommended approval of a plan calling for a new "infill" building on an empty lot on Market Street.

One new plan shows a parking deck there and a three-story addition atop another building. The other calls for putting a park on the empty lot. All three would involve renovating existing buildings in the area.

City Council is scheduled to vote today on a plan put forward by Eagle/Market Streets Development Corp., a nonprofit organization coordinating redevelopment of the area. Council in January put off a vote for four weeks because of criticism of the plan.

Eagle/Market Streets proposes to renovate buildings just to the southwest of the intersection of the two streets by the same name, plus build a new, four-story one on an empty lot just north of The Ritz Building on Market.

The $6.6 million project would create retail space at the street level and apartments on upper stories.

Asheville City Council is scheduled to vote today on a budget amendment that would allow current redevelopment plans for The Block to proceed. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. on the first floor of City Hall. The meeting will not be televised live.

Two property owners and an architect working with them suggested instead adding three stories of apartments to an existing historic building on Eagle Street. As in the other plans, street-level space would be for retail use.

The plan drawn up over the weekend by architect Crawford Murphy shows a two-level parking garage in the lot just to the north of The Ritz Building owned by Eugene Ellison and Howard McGlohon. It suggests keeping for apartments a small building Eagle/Market Streets proposes to tear down.

Ellison and McGlohon have sued to block Eagle/Market Streets' proposal. They say it would harm them because walls in the new building would be located just a few feet away from windows in The Ritz.

Private developers involved in the Eagle/Market Streets plan said last week that the infill building is needed to provide an elevator and stairways required by building codes for use of the upper floors of the existing structures and to create enough space to be rented to make the entire project financially feasible.

Jesse Plaster, an owner of a building on Eagle Street, said the cheapest and simplest plan would be to turn the empty lot into a park and renovate existing buildings.

Ellison said before Monday night's meeting that the Murphy proposal allows Eagle/Market Streets "to do everything they want to but it doesn't reduce the value of these buildings."

"It improves parking. It adds housing. It keeps the community together, unlike the previous plan," he said.

Murphy said his proposal would be no more expensive than what Eagle/Market Streets plans. It would take about six months to draw up detailed plans, he said.

Murphy said the additional stories atop the one-story Collett Building would blend in.

"It's not something that looks like you've stacked something on top of it," he said.

There is a good chance that federal and state regulators will disagree - and the project could lose nearly $2 million as a result, city officials said.

"When you put three stories on top of an existing building, it damages the historical integrity of that building," said city Planning Director Scott Shuford.

It might require several more months of study costing several thousand dollars to satisfy regulators, Shuford said.

An architect who drew up the Eagle/Market Streets plan, Jeff Dalton, said he had proposed adding space above only a portion of the Collett Building away from the street and regulators said they would be unlikely to approve it.

If regulators find that the project would have a significant adverse impact on the historic qualities of the area, it would be ineligible for $250,000 in tax credits for renovation of historic structures, Shuford said. In addition, the city might lose $1.1 million in federal grant and loan money it has received for the project and have to repay $600,000 Eagle/Market Streets used to buy the buildings, he said.

Ellison said private funds could be found to finance the project.

Plaster said his plan would be cheaper and have less impact on local businesses during construction, a key concern of several property owners.

"Sometimes the simplest ideas - just the renovation of the existing buildings - is the hardest one to see," he said.

The problem with the idea is that the amount of space that could be rented out would not be enough to justify the investment - or convince federal officials to fund part of the project, said City Community Development Director Charlotte Caplan.

There have been disagreements among property owners, Eagle/Market Streets officials and others for years over what should be done to revitalize The Block. Several buildings in the area were built decades ago but have deteriorated over time. Several sit empty or nearly so.

"All three proposals had merit," said local resident Benny Lake. But Lake said he supports the existing plan advanced by Eagle/Market Street.

"How much more time are we going to have to develop either one of (the alternatives)?" he said. "We're going to lose money."

Business owner Joy Harmon liked Murphy's plan, saying it "shows an awareness of the needs of the community."

Contact Barrett at 232-5833 or [email protected]

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After a period of disagreement between the city and other stakeholders, it looks like the revitalization in the Eagle / South Market street neighborhood is trying to get back on track. The neighborhood, known as "The Block," Asheville's historic black business district downtown, has been stalled in revitalization efforts with a lack of a clear consensus as to how to move and how to fund the project.

At one point, there was a proposal for a 12-ish story building by the Grove Park Inn, but the idea was scrapped. There are a number of historic buildings in this district still awaiting renovation, and a number of lots available for infill. I'm looking forwards to seeing what happens there, and I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Read the article.

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New article in the C-T about the cornerstone of The Block being purchased by Cherokee Investment Partners of Raleigh.

Cherokee is a firm with deep pockets and lots of connections. If something can be made to happen here, they can probably make it happen. And the fact that their corporate headquarters is based in-state has to count for something, too. Even if this project stalls out, we can expect to see some damn pretty master plan renderings out of the process.

Cherokee likes to work on big projects, so I wouldn't be too surprised to see them get involved in some of the RFP's / RFQ's for redevelopment of city-owned property along South Charlotte, too.

Jones is right -

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OK - the plan from the first post has been scratched, and the next in this long series of plans is now being considered, according to this C-T article: Eagle St. set for revival. Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church is partnering with a developer to refurbish three buildings they own, and build three more.

In addition to the mysterious "parkside condominiums" at Spruce and Marjorie mentioned in the June 4th TRC agenda, things are again looking up for the underappreciated southeast quadrant of downtown. Not the first time we've gotten this far before, but in every case progress has been stymied by infighting and argument over what is appropriate for the neighborhood and who should build it.

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Here's an article about the next attempt at revitalizing the Block. This one is being headed by Mt Zion Missionary Baptist Church, and involves renovating three buildings to include retail shops and 52 condos.

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As much as I've been to downtown, I've never ventured that way.

Don't they still have the Goombay Festival? That was the best event in town when I lived there.

Oh! I just looked it up on the internet, it just happened a couple of weeks ago, and it was the 25th anniversary to boot. Sorry I missed that!

A few years ago, there was a group of doctors who were trying to run a health clinic there too. They managed to get it off the ground for a while, I can't remember what shut them down.

The area has an interesting history, much of it very sad - much of it involving "revitalization" projects.

I hope you'll venture down the hill - go on foot - so you can take in the place. Stop by the YMI Cultural Center.

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So there's now a farily concrete proposal that was submitted as a response to the city's RFP for the SE corner of Eagle & Market. The proposal is for a 9-story condo building. The distinctive 3-story Delcardo building will be renovated, and the facade of the 1-story Collette building next door will be preserved. A little bit of the empty space along Market Street will be filled in with more retail and a parking entrance. Read the Mountain Xpress article here.

The proposal looks something like this:

eaglemarketrenaissance.jpg

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No updates to this thread in a long time but it seems like (as of January anyway) the above project is still on, though it is "affected" by the current economic situation in some way and may be resized or redesigned.

In other news, Mt Zion Missionary Baptist Church wants to demolish the two quirky but poorly maintained 3-4 story industrial buildings that it owns off of Eagle and Spruce streets. Their short term plan for the buildings is to build parking lots, and there are no long term plans at all.

The issue went before the downtown commission today and they decided to put off their vote to endorse or oppose the demolition. This will give interested parties 30 days to find a method that avoids demolition but still meets the church's needs.

These are neat buildings but it might prove challenging to find a way to reuse them in this market. Here's hoping.

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I haven't seen them in person, only Google Street View. They're probably filled with industrial contaminants, but it would be neat if they were converted to loft apartments.

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The Downtown Commission voted to allow the demolition to proceed. Nobody really seemed that thrilled about it, but without any alternatives, they weren't going to stand in the church's way.

I finally drove through the area the other day. It's sad that so little is happening in that corner of town. I suspect if there is housing like in the plan above, that could change.

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The Citizen-Times has a new article on the Eagle-Market Renaissance project. The architects also have a presentation with some new renderings.

The current incarnation seems to involve one additional facadectomy, and two complete demolitions of small, less-significant buildings in comparison with the 2008 incarnation above. I'm not upset because the buildings that are being demolished are insignificant 1-story structures, and the buildings having their facades removed are nothing too nice either. It looks like the 3-story Del Cardo building will be preserved intact, and a small part of the new building will apparently be cantilevered partially over it from the 4th floor up. The 2-story building at the NW corner of the lot (next to the alley) is also kept intact.

I'm more than a bit skeptical that this can get off the ground given the economic realities of today and the fact that this project has already been stuck for well over a decade.

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We'll see how it goes. I'd feel better if the church had some concrete plans for their property. I still wish rehabilitation was/is possible (are those buildings still standing?).

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They way they're going we'll be able to witness the new building about the same time as the 26 connector is finished.

This is a link to the UNC-Charlotte Urban Design Studio Interim Report on the Block Revitalization Study Co-Sponsored by the Asheville Design Center

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I really like the greenway idea, I hope they start working on this area soon. It really needs it.

Edited by Alias

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The C-T is now covering the MHO proposal for this site. It calls for a 70 unit, 7-story building. The Del Cardo and Colette buildings would be left intact and renovated, rather than have just their facades preserved as the previous proposal called for.

If we look at the Glen Rock, we can see that it took about five years for MHO to bring the project from inception to completion. I would say we can expect a similar timeframe here since it will take a while to obtain the loans and grants they need in order to make it happen, not to mention the process of shepherding it through the development review process. There is also the possibility that the project would be scaled back (like Glen Rock) if MHO doesn't obtain as much financing as they want.

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Renderings and site plans are up on the Development Mapper. One good choice compared to the previous plan: the Del Cardo building will be renovated and not treated as a facadectomy.

The Ritz building (on Market) and the Colette building (on Eagle) will be partially demolished but have their front portions preserved. I don't really have a problem with this, but for what I would say are a few "strange" choices.

1. The Ritz building will have its back half chopped off. Fine, it makes for a larger rectangular footprint for the apartment building. However, the front half of the Ritz (that will be kept) will apparently be townhomes, not retail space. (?)

2. The Collette building will have its facade preserved, but its storefronts will not be restored all the way; they will be partly bricked over. See the rendering above. It looks really odd. The part of the Colette building being saved is too shallow to be retail space, and they're probably not going to incorporate retail into the structure of the apartment building, so again instead of retail, it seems that this will serve as the entrance to the apartment building.

3. The little one story retail building south of the Ritz will be demolished and used as a parking entrance. Shame to lose a retail space but not a huge loss. This really does make sense as the parking entrance because of grade issues.

4. Townhomes will be built along Market between the Del Cardo and Ritz buildings. I'm really not a fan of townhomes on retail streets. IMO, residential should be above street level in a downtown building.

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I'm reasonably certain that what's going on here is asbestos/lead abatement. MHO/EMSDC got a $100,000 grant to do this remediation on these buildings and at the old Glen Rock Hotel back in February. Read the article. This is an important prerequisite to construction, but I do not believe the either project has the funding to proceed beyond that yet (though I could be wrong).

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It looks like everybody has faith in MHO. City Council agreed to release $300,000 from the housing trust fund. MHO has a good track record in bringing complicated projects to fruition, see Larchmont and Glen Rock.

This is a pretty good project. Maybe I'd like it a bit more if they didn't have to chop off the back 2/3 of the Ritz building. Part of me also says it could use a bit more retail, but then how much demand is there in that neighborhood anyway? I think several of the spaces in the Pack Place parking deck are vacant. Anyway these are minor complaints. This will be a big upgrade for the area.

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Some good news!

 

"The Eagle Market Place project, a major affordable housing, commercial and community space development in the heart of downtown's the Block neighborhood, got the go-ahead for funding from Asheville City Council tonight. The city will contribute $3.3 million to complete the project, and construction is slated to begin in October."

 

Read more at mountainx.com

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