The project will further transform the River Arts District into a tourist-friendly destintation. The project comes just as New Belgium Brewing will be opening its new $140 million East Coast brewing operation on Craven Street just across the French Broad River from the RAD. The brewery alone is expected pull thousands of visitors into the area.
Here are five things to know about the River Arts District construction work:
- Work will start in 2016: The project has been on the books for several years, but now it’s finally here. Construction will start early next year, so be prepared for a lot of disruption. Riverside Drive is often used as sort of a cut-through for drivers looking to avoid major thoroughfares like Patton Avenue and the Bowen Bridge, but that may not be such a good idea any more. And while most of the major work at New Belgium on Craven Street will be wrapping up, another big construction project is still on the books to begin early next year: the RAD Lofts project at the corner of Clingman and Roberts Street.
- 12 Bones restaurant is likely moving: The barbecue joint beloved by locals, tourists and Mr. President Barack Obama himself will be moving. It is not closing. 12 Bones will be dislocated because the construction plan calls for re-aligning the Riverside Drive/Lyman Street connection through its property. Folks familiar with the area know the Lyman-Riverside intersection is awkward, and that Lyman makes a hard turn right in front of the restaurant. Chris Peterson, who owns the property the restaurant sits on, has vowed to fight the DOT property acquisition required for the road work in court.
- There is no pedestrian bridge: During planning talks for the construction project, an idea was floated to build a pedestrian bridge across the French Broad, and parallel to the Craven Street Bridge, to connect the River Arts District to the west side of theFrench Broad River. The idea was to provide easier pedestrian and bicycle access for folks headed to New Belgium Brewing. There is currently no funding in the RAD TIP project budget for such a bridge.
- Trestle work: In all the talk about truck routes for New Belgium Brewing, one proposed idea was to lower the roadway as it passes below the railroad’s train trestle right in front of Smoky Park Supper Club. Currently the trestle is too low to accommodate big trucks. That idea will become a reality under the RAD TIP plan. The work will also require significant drainage work to be sure that water doesn’t pool on the newly lowered road. (Water already pools there.)
- More roundabouts: There are at least two more roundabouts coming to the River Arts District. One will be at the above-mentioned re-aligned intersection of Riverside and Lyman. The other will be at the four-way intersection of Clingman Avenue/Roberts Street/Depot Street/Lyman Street. There’s an existing roundabout at the intersection of Roberts Street and Clingman Avenue, where Clingman meets the Haywood Street bridge.