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Feb 18, 2014

Spotlight on Land of Sky: A Little Brownfields Money Goes a Long Way in Asheville, NC

Category: General
Posted by: rita

When the Land of Sky Regional Council in Asheville, North Carolina saw the chance to facilitate brownfields remediation, revitalize a neighborhood, employ individuals from a job training program, and encourage affordable housing, all with one remediation grant to two projects, they jumped at the opportunity. The two exceptional projects assisted by Land of Sky have garnered recognition from the National Association of Development Organizations and attracted over $15 million in new investment. By the time they are completed, the two projects will provide 84 units of affordable housing, valuable commercial space, over 500 construction jobs, and over 50 permanent jobs.

The Land of Sky Regional Council is a multi-county, local government planning and development organization in western North Carolina. It serves the counties of Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania. Land of Sky’s Regional Brownfields Initiative, headed by NALGEP’s newly-elected board member Kate O’Hara, seeks to meet the needs of the council’s member governments for the redevelopment of abandoned or underutilized sites. When lead and asbestos were discovered in two Asheville sites that were slated for renovation to provide affordable housing, the Glen Rock Depot and Eagle Market Place, Land of Sky decided to provide $104,973 to address the contamination. This assistance has been an important catalyst for the two sites.

The first site, the Glen Rock Depot, is Phase III of a major mixed-use project in Asheville’s River Arts District. This project will transform the long-vacant Depot Street Hotel into affordable housing units and commercial space. The top two floors of the former hotel are being transformed into 22 one-bedroom apartments; the bottom floor of the building will have about 12,000 square feet of commercial space.

The second site, Eagle Market Place, will provide 62 affordable/workforce apartments, over 6,000 square feet of community and neighborhood space, and almost 7,000 square feet of commercial, retail, and office space. The Eagle Market Place project is located in Asheville’s historic African American neighborhood called "The Block". It is being co-developed by Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation and Mountain Housing Opportunities, Inc.

In August 2013, the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency awarded approximately $7 million in new funds to Eagle Market Place. This new commitment of $7 million, in addition to over $4.1 million already committed in loans and grants from the City of Asheville and Buncombe County, meant that the project will infuse the historic African American neighborhood and Asheville’s downtown with over $11 million of new investment.

Another important aspect of this success story is that five of the people working on remediation at the Eagle Market Place site were trained by Green Opportunities, a non-profit organization committed to empowering low-income neighborhoods in Asheville by providing training opportunities which will lead to well-paying jobs. Physical work on the project began in early October 2013. The apartments are scheduled to be complete by the end of 2014, and the commercial and community space will open a few months later.

With great projects like these, it is no surprise that Kate O'Hara, Senior Planner and Brownfields Program Manager at Land of Sky, received a Brownfields Leadership Award from NALGEP in 2013. As Kate said, "Both projects preserve Asheville's rich history while providing much needed housing and development. These projects exemplify how communication and cooperation among local government agencies and grass roots organizations can change a dream into a reality."

Eagle Market Place (before). Photo credit:  Land of Sky Regional Council

Eagle Market Place (before). Photo credit:  Land of Sky Regional Council

Eagle Market Place (after). Rendering by Tice-Kiester Architects PA

Eagle Market Place (after). Rendering by Tice-Kiester Architects PA