What’s Happening Locally
Change is inevitable. The Asheville-Buncombe area is quickly growing through different initiatives – many funded by taxpayer dollars categorized as grants. Private funders are bringing new businesses to town, and a new community center – the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center – was built.
The River Arts District has revived a dilapidated and lifeless area, and Eagle-Market Streets Redevelopment Corp. plans are finally in action. Mission Hospital Systems and Asheville-Buncombe Technical College are expanding. Past “future development plans” are being implemented and “present future development plans” are being compiled. Yes – the land uses and landscapes are changing rapidly throughout the Asheville-Buncombe community.
For many, change is uncomfortable, unsettling, but necessary. However, where there is change, it could impact your family and your community. Therefore, it is important that YOU be a part of that changing process for several reasons. First, it will allow you to receive factual information on what is happening. Second, it will encourage you to become an active part of the change – allowing opportunity for you to input. Last, but not least, remember – you are a taxpaying citizen. Your voice in our government matters!
Southside – River Arts District
The Southside area (a historic African American neighborhood), is where a large number of people are living below the poverty level. This community is going through another major change in landscape as a result of grant dollars entrusted to the City of Asheville.
To list a few: A planning grant of $860,000 for the East of the Riverway Sustainable Communities Initiative was mostly funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Tiger II grant. The grant is designed to assist he the community develop plans to create a sustainable future. In addition, Housing Urban Development (HUD) provided a $3.8-million-dollar grant to renovate and transform the W.C. Reid Center into a community development center.
Most recently, Green Opportunities (GO) and collaborative partners (Mountain Housing Office and Asheville Housing Authority) received an $800,000 grant from Department of Health & Human Services for Community Economic Development (CED). Green Opportunity’s project envisioned for the grant to create jobs in food production (creating gardens), preparation (Go-Kitchen-Ready), and distribution (MHO establishing a neighborhood grocery store).
As documented in the Asheville City Development Plan 2025, adopted by Asheville City Council on October, 28, 2003, the focus is “a smart growth initiative,” and plans for land use and transportation, air and water quality, economic development are the priorities. “Planning is what you do before you do the thing you want to do,” stated Warren Jake Wicker of the North Carolina Institute of Government.
After the planning stage, implementation of those plans happens. Most likely, larger pools of government grant dollars will fund the implementation. In all of the government funding, there is also an initiative to include community members, and to be open and transparent in the business decisions and actions. Therefore, it is important that community members take an active part toward creating a more direct positive impact.
If you are interested in the change throughout the Asheville-Buncombe community, contact the planning offices of Asheville City and Buncombe County and request a copy of the most recent development plans.
I encourage you to start attending Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commission meetings. As the Southside Community Advisory Board Chair, I invite you to attend our community meetings which are held the first Tuesday of each month (6 p.m.) at the Dr. Wesley Grant, Sr. Southside Community Center located at 285 Livingston Street.
Currently we have some hot-topic items: (1) The W.C. Reid Center is being renovated, and there is a specific concern for the community use of the kitchen area. (2) As submitted and previously introduced, there are working plans for a grocery store in the Old Glen Rock Hotel building as a result of need and the Southside area being part of a “desert food area.” (3) Due to the rapid change, there are concerns about losing the historical Walton Street Park-Pool area – once the only pool African Americans could access.
A website, www.eastoftheriverway.com, has been established as an information resource for the Sustainable Communities initiative. I am hoping that the City of Asheville will expand this information resource to include all Asheville communities. If you share that desire, contact Mr. Jeff Staudinger, Community Development Director, at (828) 259-5723 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Project Coordinator, Tara Irby at email@example.com.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of The Urban News.