J. Hackett, GRIND. LLC

J. Hackett of Grind Asheville coffee shop in the River Arts District is shown at 8 River Arts Place, where he will launch Black Wall Street AVL this month.

Asheville City Council approved a rental agreement for Black Wall Street AVL to take over the lease of 8 River Arts Place in the River Arts District at its Oct. 26 meeting.

J. Hackett and Bruce Waller of GRIND, LLC put together the proposal that will create a home base for Black Wall Street AVL, a group of local Black-owned businesses.

“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.”

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 the city’s many bright and dynamic Black-owned businesses of today 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 also will be available to rent for events.

Given the high level of foot traffic in the area and around the building, the goal to become a tourist destination benefitting the Black community is expected to be successful, Hackett added.

“It’s really exciting to be part of the River Arts District in Asheville,” Hackett said.

The City engaged in a highly inclusive request for proposals process that started in May and included deep 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,” said Polly McDaniel, communications specialist with the city.

In its presentation to City Council, Black Wall Street AVL outlined its business plan to include:

• A digital library with Black business history, current Black-owned businesses and newly formed Black-owned businesses accessed through an interactive digital screen installed on the interior walls of the building.

• A retail shop housing products and selling the services of other Black businesses in Asheville throughout the week, so they make money even when they are not present.

• A culturally responsive event center where patrons could rent out the space for events, meetings, weddings, gatherings, etc. and be surrounded by Black history and culture.

• A marketplace where Black business owners can sell their items in person at pop-ups.

• A tourist destination that highlights Asheville as a city for Black businesses to come, visit or grow.

According to the staff report to Council at the Oct. 26 meeting, there were a total of five RFPs submitted for the space. Applicants included: Asheville Buncombe Community Land Trust, BeLoved Asheville, Effulgence Skin & Wellness, LLC, Flying Bike, Hood Huggers International, and Asheville Hiking Tours and GRIND, LLC.

The rental rate for 8 River Arts Place was originally approved at $1,500 per month for four years with a four-year option. It was later recommended by Council that the rent to the organization be adjusted to $1 per year for four years with the balance to be subsidized by an economic development grant. The recommendation for the lease adjustment and consideration for the grant is scheduled to return to Council at its December meeting.

Hackett plans to kick off Black Wall Street AVL with daily events through Nov. 20.

“The retail store will be fully open by Saturday, Nov. 27,” he said.

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