The City of Asheville has announced a new tenant for 8 River Arts Place: Black Wall Street AVL.
J. Hackett and Bruce Waller of Grind LLC submitted a proposal for the space to be a home base for Black Wall Street AVL, a group of local Black-owned businesses. At its October 26 meeting, Asheville City Council voted to accept their proposal for the space.
“This is actually just the next phase of growth of entrepreneurial spirit here in Asheville,” said Hackett. “This space is going to be home to about 58 Black-owned businesses that will be selling their items, their products and services out of here. It’s going to be a hub and event space for all types of wonderful events, so we’re excited! We want everybody to come and take part in this.”
In fact, the venue will host a taste-testing of Chef Steven Juan Moore’s fusion cuisine on Nov. 20 as a way to launch the event venue. [See Meet Chef Steven Moore]
Built circa 1930, the structure at 8 River Arts Place is a piece of Asheville history. The building was remodeled in 2017, and it was intended to become a “highly visible, publicly owned arts and culture information portal” as well as a “destination in its own right, with plans for a public-private-partnership lease, and to serve as flexible space for a gallery, office, studio, retail, or performance space that would be rented to private sector partners.”
Black Wall Street will bring Asheville’s Black business history alive with interactive digital displays. It will showcase today’s many bright and dynamic Black-owned Asheville businesses through an active market component. A retail shop will be on site to house products and sell services of associated Black-owned businesses. The space will also be available to rent for events. Given the high level of foot traffic in the area and around the building, its goal to become a tourist destination benefitting the Black community is expected to be successful. “It’s really exciting to be part of the River Arts District in Asheville,” Hackett said.
The City engaged in a highly inclusive and equitable Request for Proposals process with deep and thorough community outreach. Five applications from different organizations and groups were submitted. The Black Wall Street’s innovative proposal was chosen as one that best fit the criteria and vision for the space.
The lease was approved under the originally advertised dollar figure and term, for four years at a fair market rent. However, the Council expressed an interest in adjusting the rental rate to $1 annually. To comply with state law, however, this option requires 30 days’ notice before Council can approve the new rental terms, so the rent change will be set at a future meeting for the lease amendment consideration. For the Black Wall Street group to handle the higher initial rate of rent, the Council will consider making an economic development grant to the tenant. This deliberation also requires a public hearing, with advance public notice, and the Council will consider such a grant in its December meeting.
Black Wall Street AVL will kick off with daily events taking place through November 20, 2021.
Also, so that both businesses and shoppers will be able to shop for the holidays, Hackett noted, “The retail store will be fully open by Saturday, November 27, 2021.”