Brent Starck, a spokesman for the group of new owners, said in a telephone interview that the new owners feel lucky to have acquired the buildings and are excited about their plans to spotlight artists in an area known as a haven to working artists. The property is at 750 Riverside Dr., just north of the Bywater bar and north of what is formally known as Asheville’s River Arts District.
Here’s Starck’s story:
Starck is a furniture designer who grew up in Georgia, moved to Wisconsin and ended up in Asheville. In Madison, Wis., Starck opened Drift Studio, a wood shop and furniture design studio. The plan there was to start a collection of products under one unified brand and have the products emerge from a collective group of artists. The group created a cabinet system that caught some big press a few years ago, “so I feel pretty good that this idea can work,” he said.
Starck, in ownership with Eddie Dewey, Tom Oreck and Rick Eckerd, plan to replicate that artist collective idea in one of the Riverside Drive warehouses. The wood and furniture design shop of Starck’s will anchor a space, while Oreck and Eggert, both glass artists, will anchor a second space. The Oreck/Eckerd space will be equipped for teaching, as well as blowing glass, according to Starck.
“These guys are really motivated and interested in extending the WNC glass industry and helping foster ancillary businesses,” Starck said. “They’ve got a pretty deep mission.”
The rest of the space will be for artist studios. The plan is to keep it affordable and make it available to collaborators, Starck said. “We’re talking to some clay people, we’re talking about possibly putting a forge in.”
The other warehouse will be for manufacturing and current tenant Astral will remain, Starck said. Other plans include space for a coffee roaster or a pizza maker – some place for hungry artists to hang, he added.
The warehouses were built in the 1950s and were tobacco distribution clearinghouses, according to Starck. There are 100 skylights in one warehouse, and the plan is to open them up and re-roof that warehouse. Work will start soon, he said, and the hope is to get into the buildings by the end of the summer.