Historic church saved from demolition, used for affordable housing

Spectrum News 1

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A longstanding church in a historically Black neighborhood in Asheville, built in 1908 and rebuilt in 1926, has been saved from the wrecking ball.

“Developers had bought it and were going to develop this whole area, and the neighborhood was really upset,” Executive Director of the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County Jessie Landl said. “It’s an important landmark for the community.”

According to Landl, the Cappadocia Church saw its last congregation on Beaucatcher Mountain around 2013.

Even if not currently open, the church continues to hold stories and connections as a part of Asheville’s East End neighborhood.

“The transfers in the newspaper showed that it had sold, and so, we reached out to the neighborhood association and asked what their feelings were and they were really adamant that the church be saved,” Landl said.

And that is exactly what they are doing. Affordable housing soon became a part of the plan, and Landl’s team is now partnering with the Asheville Buncombe Community Land Trust as an affordable housing partner.

“The first reason this project is important is this is Asheville’s oldest Black neighborhood, hardest hit by urban renewal and under incredible development pressure right now really close to downtown,” Landl said. “As you drive around this neighborhood, you’ll see that the houses are just getting purchased, demolished and new things built in their place. So it’s really important to see preservation happen in this neighborhood.”

Landl said the affordable housing crisis in Asheville was important to take into account with this project, bringing up many questions on how to move forward.

“We have an affordable housing crisis,” Landl said. “We also don’t want to come in and gentrify neighborhoods. So how do you kind of accomplish all of these things at once? We think preservation is a really good tool for affordable housing.”

Not only do they plan to preserve the building, but this change will help tell new stories too.

“We’re working on getting the site rezoned and also working on designing it to fit three apartments into it,” Landl said. “So, it’ll have two units in the front of the church going this way and one in the back of the church going that way. The goal is for them all to be deeply affordable.”

Landl says the exterior of the building will remain what it has always been in the neighborhood. The preservation team is in the midst of the first part of the project.

“Phase one of the church project, which is the design phase and planning phase, is really going to take place through all of this year,” Landl said.

Phase two of the project will include rehabilitating the house they also purchased next door, which they plan to start next month. Phase three will be rehabilitating the church, which will include putting together funding partners, along with the project’s design and engineering work.

Click here to view the article online and to watch the video interview with Jessie Landl at the church