Happening Now

The Boosting the Block project advances key elements in the Pack Square Plaza Vision Plan, including the planning, design and implementation of a gateway and cultural corridor along South Market Street. It incorporates place-based investments and programming that enhances the area’s physical and cultural environment. The resulting work will support a more authentic and truthful narrative about the past, present and future of The Block. 

The Latest

July 22, 2024 – Project Kick-Off: Meet & Greet 

  • Celebrate project kick-off and meet the community facilitator team along with staff and community members involved the project. Monday, July 22 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m at the Foundry Hotel Lounge. Refreshments provided. RSVP here

May 28, 2024 – City Council authorized staff to execute a contract with a Community Facilitator following an RFP and evaluation process that took place between November 2023 and February 2024. The Community Facilitator will lead engagement and support all aspects of community organizing, planning, design and implementation of the project deliverables. See the press release here.

The City has also contracted with a local Community Coordinator to further support engagement, communications and community capacity-building during year 1 of the project. 

May 24, 2024 – the City shared a Request for Letters of Interest for a community coordinator role to support year 1 of the project. Letters were due by end of day on Friday, May 31, 2024. Find more information here

 


Background

The Block is a historic Black business district and multicultural hub that also serves as a geographic and cultural connection between downtown and the East End Valley Street Neighborhood. It is one block from Pack Square, the most central public space in Asheville.

The Pack Square Plaza Vision Plan was adopted by City Council on September 23, 2023. The Vision Plan documents the community’s vision for a more equitable, accessible and inclusive Pack Square Plaza and surrounding area. The Vision Plan was a continuation of recommendations by the Vance Monument Task Force and subsequent City resolution to remove the Vance Monument, and an emerging sense in the community that it is time to create a new narrative around the past, present and future of this and other public spaces. A key element of the Visioning process, and resulting recommendations in the Vision Plan, is a call to better connect (both physically and mentally) Pack Square to The Block.  

The Boosting the Block project implements this aspect of the Vision Plan through the planning and execution of a gateway and cultural corridor along South Market Street. The project will also support capacity building/empowerment within the neighborhood to enable the community to influence the physical and cultural environment, and drive the narrative (past, present and future) of The Block. 

Project Funding

The project is funded by a $3,000,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project, awarded to the City on Juneteenth, 2023. The grant-funded scope of work was representative of recommendations in the Pack Square Vision Plan and also inspired by an earlier, unfunded grant submittal by the YMI Cultural Center to the Mellon Foundation, The Block Neighborhood Plan on a Page, and what City and County staff have heard from the community while working with them over the past several years. 

In addition to the Boosting the Block project ($1.8M), the following two projects are also funded by the Mellon Foundation as part of the overall grant: 

  • Reframing the Square ($1.1M)design and engineering of a new plan for the site of the former Vance Monument and surrounding plaza. 
  • Sharing our Stories ($163,400) – catalyze change in the overall narrative that drives our physical, social, and online landscapes of commemoration through an expansion of Buncombe County’s Oral History program. 

Project Outcomes

At the end of the 2.5 year (30 month) Boosting the Block project, the following outcomes are expected: 

  • A physical gateway and cultural corridor between Pack Square and The Block via South Market Street. 
  • Increased capacity of institutions and stakeholders on The Block to shape and significantly influence the future of the area, including special events and festivals that preserve the legacy and cultural heritage of The Block. 
  • Enhanced public spaces in alignment with the community’s vision and in a way that authentically narrates the past, present, and future of The Block.  
  • Consensus and implementation of neighborhood identity and marketing. 

 


Timeline

July 22, 2024 – Project Kick-Off 

July 1, 2024 – City staff execute a contract for community engagement, capacity building and communications support with JD Ellison and Company. 

May 28, 2024 – City Council authorize staff to execute a contract with selected Community Facilitator team (Illumined Leadership Solutions and Bennett Weston Consulting). See staff report and presentation

March 12, 2024 – City Council consideration to authorize staff to execute a contract with selected Community Facilitator (no vote taken – consideration delayed)

February 12, 2024 – Planning and Economic Development Committee of City voted 3-0 to recommend that City Council authorize staff to execute a $180,000 contract with the selected Community Facilitator. See staff report and presentation

December – February 6, 2024 – Selection process to hire a Community Facilitator 

November 17, 2023 – The City releases an RFP for a Community Facilitator to lead engagement and support all aspects of community organizing, planning, design and implementation of the project deliverables.

September 26, 2023 – City Council adopted the Pack Square Plaza Vision Plan 

June 19, 2023 – City is awarded $3M grant front the Mellon Foundation

April 11, 2023 – City Council adopted a resolution to authorize staff to apply for and accept Mellon Foundation funding to implement the Pack Square Plaza Vision Plan, including design and construction of a gateway corridor on S.Market Street to connect Pack Square and The Block (“Boosting the Block”). 

March 13, 2023 – City Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee recommended that City Council authorize staff to apply for and accept Mellon Foundation funding to implement the Pack Square Plaza Vision Plan, including design and construction of a gateway corridor on S.Market Street to connect Pack Square and The Block (“Boosting the Block”). 

 


Supporting Documents

Pack Square Plaza Vision Plan

Announcement of Mellon Foundation grant 

The Block Plan on a Page 

 


Contact Information

Dana Frankel, Downtown Planning Manager

Planning and Urban Design Department

dfrankel@ashevilllenc.gov

828-273-5248

 


 

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The Planning and Urban Design Department provides sound, professional land use planning, zoning, urban design and historic preservation and other services to achieve livable and sustainable neighborhoods for everyone. The department is committed to collaborating with our community on its vision for equitable growth and development consistent with Asheville’s adopted plans.  Learn more about department services, [...]