June 18, 2022

Richard Marciano, Rosemary Grant
Alexis Hill, Phillip Nicholas
Noah Scheer, Alan Wierdak
Mark Conrad, Kari Fénelon
Arthur “Ray” McCoy

Building on the June 24, 2021 public webinar (LINK‘The Fourth Thursday:  “Urban Renewal Impact” in Asheville’ w. Priscilla Robinson & Myeong Lee & Portia Evans, where the Urban Renewal Impact website (LINK) was launched with a big-data archival interface (see DATA tab).

Richard Marciano: Professor and founder of the Advanced Information Collaboratory (AIC). Former resident of NC.
Rosemary Grant: MLIS 2022 Graduate @ U. Maryland iSchool
Alexis Hill: Archives Specialist, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
Phillip Nicholas: Archives Specialist, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Historian & Researcher.
Noah Scheer: MLIS Student @ U. Maryland iSchool
Alan Wierdak: Archives Specialist, U. Maryland Spec. Coll. Lib
Mark Conrad: AI-Collaboratory Co-Founder, Archival & Records Management Researcher
Kari Fénelon: Artist, Healer & Community Leader @ Fenelon Sanctuary
Arthur “Ray” McCoy: Attorney and educator. Civil rights and labor arbitration.

Several states and local governments in the United States have established commissions and charged them with the task of developing policies on reparations. The commissions are attempting to define reparations and identify who should receive reparations. In North Carolina, the Asheville City Council, along with the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, established a Community Reparations Commission. The Commission is charged with developing short, medium and long-term recommendations designed to “specifically address the creation of generational wealth and to boost economic mobility and opportunity in the black community.” In its resolution, the City of Asheville committed to make amends for “carrying out an urban renewal program that destroyed multiple, successful black communities.”

To better understand the impact of Asheville’s urban renewal program, our research team launched the “Measuring the Impact of Urban Renewal”, aka PURPLE Project (Post-Urban Renewal Profile of Loss of Equity). The project set out to apply  Computational Archival Science (CAS) principles through digital mapping through data mining, to create a concrete picture of the properties taken by the City’s urban renewal project, the properties that remain in the City’s possession, and to tell the stories of the lives uprooted by these policies. Our current project focuses on telling the story of the East Riverside Project which targeted the Southside neighborhood. The Southside is very significant as it was home to “3,902 residents living in 1,179 households, which accounted for about 50% of Asheville’s black population and 7% of its total population at the time. In addition, the Southside was Asheville’s premier black business district, surrounded by a large residential neighborhood.”  The Southside urban renewal project was “the largest in the southeastern United States [and the largest in Asheville] and the scale of the devastation here was unmatched”. See the Summer-Fall 2010 North Carolina Humanities Council Crossroads publication: Twilight of a Neighborhood.

The project may provide an invaluable resource to the Asheville Community Reparations Commission in its effort to both evaluate the loss and define reparations with respect to Asheville’s commitment to make amends for its destructive and discriminatory urban renewal program. Our approach is generalizable to other neighborhoods of Asheville and possibly other cities. Our results begin to quantify how much urban renewal deprived Southside homeowners of a very significant source of intergenerational wealth.

This is a work in progress designed to provide new data in a form that can promote policy and decision-making regarding reparations in the City of Asheville. “Successful claims always require at least two types of proof: identity and harm, and records are needed to support proof.” This new data can be used as follows:

  1. The Asheville Reparations Commission can use the data compiled to, among other things, identify the specific individuals, families and businesses who were torn from their community and deprived of property under the guise of urban renewal. We call this revealing Identity: to determine WHO was affected.
  2. The data compiled can also be used by the Asheville Reparations Commission to begin to fashion a remedy or definition of reparations by looking at the types of harm that occurred. We call this revealing Harm: to determine HOW people were affected.
We compiled this data in order to reveal Identity and Harm w.r.t.:
A.   Who was affected by urban renewal?
B.    How much did the City pay for urban renewal properties?
C.    Which properties does the City still own?
D.   How much are those properties now worth?
E.    When did the City start reselling these properties?
F.    How much were these properties resold for?
G.   Who was able to repurchase these properties?

Click here for: LINK to Full EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Report

Click here for: LINK to COMPANION PAPER
presented at DIGI-ARCHIVES-2022: International Conference on Digital Archives, Data and Memory, Copenhagen — Aug. 26, 2022



A. Who was affected by urban renewal?
Our Team focused on the Southside neighborhood of Asheville where we:

  • Identified 930 parcels acquired during Urban Renewal in Asheville from 1965 to 1980 (UR Parcels). The data shows that many homeowners resisted these acquisitions and went to court.
  • Created a profile for each of these UR Parcels: showing original owners and tenants at the time of acquisition, property pictures, and a history of everything that happened to that parcel during UR.
  • Created a map interface that allows searching, interaction, and display across all 930 UR Parcels.
  • Identified 224 existing parcels (as of June 2022), or Current Asheville Parcels (CA Parcels), that were assembled from parts of the 930 UR Parcels.


B. How much did the City pay for urban renewal properties?

1. The total UR Parcel acquisition cost was $6.4M: across the 930 UR Parcels.
2. The median UR Parcel acquisition value was $5,350 (half higher and half lower): with 85% of the acquisitions below $10K.

C. Which properties does the City still own?
3. The City of Asheville continues to have an 18% UR impact: the City of Asheville still owns 13 CA Parcels in the Southside that were acquired through UR and overlap with 169 UR Parcels, which represents 18% of the original pool of 930 UR Parcels.
4. The Housing Authority of the City of Asheville (HACA) continues to have a 16% UR impact: HACA still owns 7 CA Parcels that were acquired through UR and overlap with 147 UR parcels, which represents 16% of the original pool of 930 UR Parcels.

→ This represents a 34% combined City-HACA UR impact: across 20 CA parcels that overlap with a total of 316 UR parcels, representing over a third of the original pool of 930 UR Parcels.

D. How much are those properties now worth?
5. There is a 400% increase in the valuation of the 224 CA Parcels since UR (as of June 2022 and after inflation adjustment): based on Buncombe County’s Parcel Ownership Dashboard. This is a conservative increase well below actual current market prices (using Zillow valuations may show an even higher value, up to a 1,000% increase).

E. When did the City start reselling these properties?
6. HACA primarily (94%) and the City of Asheville (6%) resold UR Parcels for five decades: while 86% of the UR Parcels were resold in the 70s and 80s, another 14% were offloaded between the 1990s and 2010s. We call the beneficiaries of the 1st round of reselling “repurchasers”.

F. How much were these properties resold for?
7. The UR Parcels were resold at discounted prices: the median value of the resold parcels was less than 1/5th of their acquisition value during UR, indicating that the majority of the parcels were offloaded post-UR for a fraction of their acquisition price [83% of the parcels were offloaded below UR acquisition cost and the total resale revenue was $3.3M].

G. Who was able to repurchase these properties?
8. There were 6 categories of repurchasers: Individuals (46%), Businesses (40%), City (7%), HACA (3%), Churches (3%), County (1%), with 152 unique repurchasers across all 224 CA Parcels.
9. The top 10 repurchasers were responsible for the buying of 32% of all 224 CA Parcels: none of these top 10 repurchasers were Individuals.
10. Only 14 Individuals repurchased in the Southside after losing their property during UR: these 14 Individuals represent 9% of the 152 unique repurchasers.