Restoring a Historic Black Neighborhood: The Story of Blue Note Junction

Restoring a Historic Black Neighborhood: The Story of Blue Note Junction

DeWayne Barton’s ambitious project aims to revitalize Asheville’s Burton Street community and support BIPOC entrepreneurs.

More than 50 years ago, highway expansions devastated the historically Black neighborhood of Burton Street in Asheville, North Carolina. Today, DeWayne Barton is on a mission to restore the community to its former glory. After witnessing the impact of urban renewal and the crack cocaine epidemic on his family’s neighborhood, Barton returned to Asheville in 2001 with a determination to rebuild. Over the past 22 years, he has spearheaded various initiatives, and his latest project, Blue Note Junction, is set to transform the neighborhood into a vibrant hub for community, health, and entrepreneurship.

A Neighborhood Torn Apart

The Burton Street community, like many other historically Black neighborhoods in the United States, fell victim to highway expansions in the 1950s and 1960s. These expansions not only physically divided the neighborhood but also disrupted its social fabric. The impact of these developments, coupled with the devastating effects of the crack cocaine epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s, left Burton Street in desperate need of revitalization. DeWayne Barton, a native of Asheville, witnessed the destruction of his family’s neighborhood and felt compelled to take action.

Restoring Burton Street

Since his return to Asheville, Barton has dedicated his efforts to restoring Burton Street to its former glory. In 2003, he and his wife, Safi Martin, created the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens, now known as the Peace Gardens & Market. This initiative provides fresh produce to senior citizens in the community and operates a pay-what-you-can farmstand. The success of the Peace Gardens & Market inspired Barton and Martin to embark on their most ambitious project yet: Blue Note Junction.

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The Vision for Blue Note Junction

Blue Note Junction is envisioned as a community health and business incubator. Spanning 1.5 acres, the space will house a theater, fresh market, commercial kitchen, coworking and counseling space, outdoor spa, barber shop, greenhouse and gardens, and an artist village. Additionally, Blue Note Junction will serve as the headquarters for Hood Tours, Barton’s company that offers local Black history tours. The project aims to support the local community, promote self-care, and provide a platform for BIPOC business owners and entrepreneurs.

Community Ownership and Support

Blue Note Junction is Asheville’s first community-owned real estate project. Barton and Martin launched the project with the support of over 300 local individuals and organizations who contributed nearly $200,000. The goal is to ensure that the community truly owns the project, both culturally and financially. Individuals can have an equity stake in the project for as little as $250, allowing them to benefit from its success. The project also aims to keep rents below market value to support BIPOC business owners who often face limited access to resources.

Funding and Future Plans

The estimated cost of Blue Note Junction is $4.5 million, and Barton and Martin are actively raising funds to bring their vision to life. They recently received support from Opportunity Appalachia, a consortium of regional partners focused on bringing investments and sustainable growth to Appalachian communities. To generate revenue for the project, Blue Note Junction will be developed in phases, with the artist village being the first priority. Barton is also self-publishing a book called “CAP: the Community Accountability Plan,” which aims to guide others interested in creating similar community development projects.

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DeWayne Barton’s commitment to restoring Burton Street and uplifting the BIPOC community in Asheville is evident through his tireless efforts and ambitious projects like Blue Note Junction. By creating a space that combines community, health, and entrepreneurship, Barton aims to not only revitalize a historically Black neighborhood but also serve as a model for other communities facing similar challenges. Blue Note Junction’s innovative approach to community ownership and support for BIPOC entrepreneurs sets it apart as a beacon of hope and possibility. As Barton says, it’s a place that showcases what can be achieved with the resources at hand, inspiring others to do the same in their own hometowns.