The Grant Center ~ A Home Away From Home
Story by Leah Shapiro | Photos by Paul M. Howey
Named after a pastor and influential leader in Asheville’s Civil Rights movement, the Dr. Wesley Grant, Sr. Southside Center is a public, “green” facility for children and their families to use as a nurturing, community space. Located at 285 Livingston Street, it is the first building constructed by the City of Asheville to receive LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), an internationally recognized green building system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Last October, builders completed the first of the three-phase plan developed by the City of Asheville’s Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Arts Department. “They were focusing on mind, body, and spirit, and having within that community spaces for health and wellness, educational, and cultural components,” explains Jane Mathews of Mathews Architecture, which headed the design.
This first “cultural art” phase contains an auditorium, administrative space, storage, parking area, and a classroom that can be divided into three individual rooms. The construction and architectural designs for the “physical activity phase” and “community phase” are postponed until further funding is available. The plans, however, include a gym and splash park for the former and greenhouse for the latter, among other additions.
A mixture of private donations, nonprofits, campaigns, and grants helped fund the $2.9 million Grant Center phase one construction. Beginning with a campaign for the Reid Community Center seven years ago, children helped with fund-raisers like car washes.
For all the different applications the City and community expected out of a community center, the Reid Center would have needed extensive and costly repair. “Instead of trying to adapt an old facility … we thought we would look at a brand new facility,” explains Al Kopf, superintendent of planning and development for Asheville.
The city turned to the Livingston Street Park, which was a baseball field two blocks down from the Reid Center. “We thought this could be a landmark site and structure, and also allow for more flexibility in these multiple uses.”
Building from scratch meant the opportunity for practical and measurable green building designs to be incorporated in the nearly 8,000 square foot area. Some of the LEED features include geothermal heating and cooling, motion sensor lighting, and a garden on the roof.
Windows and translucent panels on the ceiling take up 75% of the ceiling and allow for natural light usage. Carbon dioxide sensors bring in outdoor fresh air, if the levels reach a certain level. The facility sits low on the field, so the roof is visible from Livingston Street.
“We wanted to minimize the amount of roof showing and, by having the vegetative roof, you’re looking down on green,” says Jane.
In addition to the water efficient appliances and fixtures and absorbent outdoor plants, a storm water runoff system addresses water quality. From the angled roof, rainwater makes its way into a bio-retention system that filters and purifies the water before it enters a nearby creek.
The auditorium’s stage curtains and audience seats were also brought in from the Reid Center. “They are beautiful seats and it speaks not only to recycling and using (existing) materials, but it also speaks to the cultural heritage,” explains Al, “We sort of carried the old center down with us.”
Currently, the Livingston neighborhood is benefitting from other upcoming projects such as the work of Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO) and the City’s greenway that will run along the backside of Grant’s property, making the commute to downtown a safe and beautiful trip.
William Hoke, Grant Center’s assistant director, is excited about the after-school programs, summer camp, and community meetings, such as William’s Developing Future Male Leaders class. “The reason I have this boys’ club is because I want to teach the kids that if they come from a certain lifestyle, it doesn’t define them,” he says.
Right now, the Grant Center is a small facility. But as William explains, “We are making sure that we spread our wings out a little bit.”
Photo of Dr. Wesley Grant, Sr. is courtesy of the Grant Center