The River District is located along the French Broad River which runs through the middle of Asheville, NC. Although a lot of people do not realize that the river is actually in the midst of the city, because there is a very high bridge that goes over the river in mid-town, and most people do not travel beside the waterway during the day (although most everyone goes over the river at least twice a day).
The river district has seen very many changes in the coarse of its' meandering life. In the late 1800's, there was a riverboat that took people up and down the river, and plans for a docking marina. This was a bustling little area around the turn of the century. Many busisness were located along the river front, a big hotel and a beautiful park were located there. But disaster struck during the big flood of 1916. Everything along the river at that time was washed away, including the riverboat and the future plans for a watery by-way.
The area was slowly rebuilt, but with more warehouse type buildings, making it not as attractive a place to gather for outtings and get togethers. The land is flat in this location, so large industrial buildings were erected, big hulking businesses like the Cotton Mill, Chesterfield Mill and the big Ice Factory. These buildings were used until the early 1970s. At which time it seems like a steady decline had started. Seedy bars moved in to some of the empty store fronts, and it was scarey there at night.
At a time in the 1980s', several of the abandoned buildings were bought up by fringe businesses. The French Broad Food Co-op was located in the Old Chesterfield Mill. A clothes designer bought several buildings at the corner of Lyman and the railroad crossing and had her production clothing business, and Porge Buck bought the warehouse on the railroad tracks and named it the Warehouse Studios. Highwater Clays bought several buildings and have done a wonderful job of renovation. They have turned half a street block into a beautiful store front, Odyssey Gallery, and Odyssey Center for the Ceramic Arts. Artists were starting to move in to the area.
Rent prices in Asheville at that time were fairly low, and the acquisition of the buildings easier than it might be today. Lots of buildings along the riverfront have been scarfed up by landlords holding tight to their rising investments. The artist community along the river has made a phenominal transformation in the surrounding area. Empty buildings and rough bars have been replaced by beautiful gallery spaces, large open work areas, and a daily influx of people using the spaces.
Rent prices today are about topped out, and we have been looking for studio space alternatives. Much discussion has gone in to a way to have more control over our work spaces, and to have some assurance that the time and money that we expend on a workable space is not lost to a landlord's pocket.
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