The Vance Monument site on Pack Square could be redeveloped following a community visioning process approved by Asheville City Council March 23. The Council approved removal of the monument as a first step.
Erected in 1897, the 75-foot-tall stone obelisk is named for former Confederate military officer, N.C Governor and U.S. Senator Zebulon Vance, whose home place is preserved as an historic site on Reems Creek in northern Buncombe County. The monument is located on a site where former slaves are believed to have been sold.
Following civil unrest and protests in the wake of the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis in 2020, the monument was vandalized and the City received threats that members of the public would attempt to topple the structure. Increasingly, the monument has become a focal point for protests and counter protests, often resulting in a dangerous condition for the community. For these reasons, it was deemed a public safety threat. Black Asheville Demands also issued a call for removal of the “Vance and Robert E Lee monuments and replace them with monuments that honor the many Black Ashevillians who have built this city.” In July 2020, the City erected a shroud around the monument as a temporary measure to veil the monument.
A joint City-Buncombe County Vance Monument Task Force deliberated and engaged the public last year on whether the monument should remain in place, be repurposed or demolished. Ultimately, the task force voted to recommend removal of the monument. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted to accept that recommendation on Dec. 7 with the City Council following suit Dec. 8. Both elective bodies directed the County and City Managers to identify next steps.
In January, the City issued a call for bids to remove the monument. This was done to determine an estimated removal cost, not because a decision had been made. Five North Carolina companies responded with prices ranging from $114,150 to $495,000.
In a presentation to Council, Capital Projects Director Jade Dundas said pending Council authorization, monument removal and demolition, as well as temporary site restoration was expected to take 45 days. The temporary site restoration would include a $25,535 landscaping contract to MS Lean Landscaping, an Asheville African American-owned business.
After the monument is removed a team of planners and community organizers will work with the public to create a comprehensive Community Vision Document for the site. The process and resulting report — which will act as the guide to any future repurposing of the site — includes the use of contracted services and is expected to cost between $50,000-$70,000. At the March 23 meeting, City Council approved this appropriation.