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Question: What is going on with Jubilee! Community Church downtown? I’ve heard the building is for sale. Are they closing?
My answer: If someone does not turn this space on Wall Street into a brewpub called “JuBEERlee!” I’ll eat my hat … if the hat is made of doughnuts.
Real answer: “The 46 Wall Street location of Jubilee! is indeed for sale, and it was not an easy decision, according to Bruce Mulkey, administrator for the Jubilee! Community.
The interfaith church has seen declining attendance — and donations — since the 2019 retirement of the Rev. Howard Hanger, the much-beloved founder of the church and for 30 years its minister, and because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mulkey said.
“Thus, sustaining our location in downtown Asheville has become more challenging,” Mulkey wrote via email.
In a document about the decision to sell, Jubilee! noted that Laura Collins, who served as temporary Minister of Transition for a year and half, recently returned as minister of celebration, and is proving very popular with community members.
“But, with a smaller community, not enough money is coming in to pay our mortgage, insurance, maintenance, staff salaries, utilities, and other expenses, and we have been going in the red every month,” the church stated. “Recognizing that the essence of Jubilee! is our community, not our building, we took a hard look at the economics of trying to retain 46 Wall Street and could not come up with a sustainable model.”
In short, it made sense to put the 10,750-square-foot building, which has entrances at 46 Wall Street and 101 Patton Avenue, on the market. Before Jubilee! leased the building in 1989 and then bought it in 2000, it was a nightclub.
As you can imagine, this is a prime downtown location.
Allen Tate/Beverly-Hanks Realtors in Asheville is marketing the building, listed in its entirety as 101 Patton Ave. The price tag is $5.2 million.
Jubilee! paid $550,000 for the building in 2000, but it needed a major renovation, so the church didn’t move in until 2006. The church grew to about 500 active members, but it’s about a quarter of that now.
The building has two levels.
“Alternately, the lower level is available as a commercial condominium with a listing price of $2.7 million,” the church stated. “Selling the lower level would allow us to retain the upper level for our Sunday celebrations while still providing a much-needed infusion of cash.”
If the entire building gets sold, community members “have expressed a longing to be housed somewhere with green space where events can be held inside and outside,” the church said. “We have been in conversation with local churches and private schools and have found several possibilities for our future incarnation.”
So, Jubilee! will live on. And that’s a good thing for the community, as the church has donated “more than $2 million to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Haywood Street Community, Homeward Bound, Manna Food Bank and others,” the church document states. “Continuing this outreach support is an important part of our future plans.”
Jubilee! has made arrangements with the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina “for the proceeds of the building sale to reside there, a portion in a permanent endowment that will provide funding for local nonprofits with values that align with ours, and a portion available to Jubilee! Community for whatever comes next,” the church states.
Mulkey says the impending sale was a difficult decision for the church, and for him personally.
“When the subject was first broached, I was one of those vehemently opposed to selling the building,” Mulkey said. “Our daughter Gracelyn was baptized at 46 Wall Street. Howard (Hanger) and the Jubilee! community blessed (us) as I departed for Ohio to work for Obama in ’08. Before my wife Shonnie underwent breast cancer surgery, blessings and prayers were offered for her well-being. All of our cats have been present at the annual blessing of the animals. Many evocative memories to say the least.”
Mulkey was on the church’s board of directors but left that role a year ago to become church administrator. He had a clear vision at the time to turn the building into a community center “for spiritual, artistic, social justice, and environmental activities seven days a week.”
The church made progress toward that with various events, and in establishing the Jubilee Alternative Micro-Shelter for homeless women. It has also hosted Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, Native American storytelling, and concerts by local musicians.
“Nonetheless, about mid-year it became apparent that our financial situation was unsustainable,” Mulkey said.
Mulkey acknowledges that the unraveling has been distressing, but he adds, “a lot of us see this as a natural and potentially good thing.”
“Nature teaches us that life is seasonal and generational,” Mulkey said. “This founding era of Jubilee’s life has been great — healing and grounding for lots of us. And it has run its course. Something new is getting ready to be born.”
Got a question? Reach out to Asheville Watchdog’s Answer Man John Boyle at (828) 337-0941 or email him at email@example.com