The property that’s home to several warehouses that once provided affordable studio space to working artists in Asheville’s River Arts District are up for sale, the property owner says.
Back in July, officials with the city of Asheville declared a group of eight buildings off Riverside Drive (behind Riverview Station) unfit for occupancy. The buildings had served as studio space for about two dozen working artists over the past three years. The buildings included The Tannery studios, Switchyard Studios and space for Terpsicorp dance company.
Asheville’s Development Services Department and Fire Marshal’s Office cut power to the buildings, declaring them unfit for occupancy. Property owner Robert Camille said he was allowing artists to improve the space and occupy the buildings in an effort to give them affordable space to work. The loss of the artists studios has been a significant blow to working artists in Asheville, those more concerned with the creation of art that the making of the almighty dollar.
Camille told me this afternoon (Thursday, Dec. 4) that he’s giving up on his noble intention and has hired a commercial Realtor to sell off the property. Camille said he had a potential buyer earlier this year who made a series of offers, but the buyer kept dropping his price, so Camille ended the talks. Camille declined to say how much the property would be listed for – he said the Realtor is researching the value now.
Camille added that city officials last week wanted to see proof that he had allowed graffiti artists to paint the warehouse buildings. The city over the past several months have been more aggressively enforcing rules against graffiti, and Camille says city officials want to see proof that he gave artists his permission to paint what he (Camille) considers works of art.
The change in the use of these buildings is just the latest in a series of tectonic changes to Asheville’s River Arts District, a gritty industrial district that in recent years has harbored working artists:
-The Phil Mechanic Building is reportedly under contract to be sold. It’s been home to working artists for years.
-Asheville City Council is pumping millions of taxpayers’ dollars into infrastructure improvements
-New Belgium Brewing continues construction on its new $175 million brewery just across the French Broad River from the RAD.
-Also over the past couple of years, a couple of derelict buildings have been torn down, and a new ownership group took over the Wedge Studios and pushed out some artists while adding some new retail businesses, including a hair salon and a restaurant.
You hit the nail on the head Melanie ! My brother who is a stone sculptor has been trying to find a place to buy and build a studio / workshop. He has been unable to find a place within 1hr of Asheville and has been looking relentlessly for the past 6 mos.
Sure hope Asheville makes it ! Exactly how are they attracting new artists these days?
I’m so sorry to hear all this. I’ve been coming to Asheville for many years and love the River Arts District. The Phil Mechanics Studio and the Wedge and all the others are unique, wonderful places. Are they about to turn into standard suburban boutiques? Developers can’t build character into an area. They can only kick out the authentic vibe in favor of pricey bait for a small percentage of the population to enjoy. I’m also disappointed in the renovations at Tupelo Honey and The Lobster Trap. The friendly, funky atmosphere in both eateries was a big attraction for my husband and me. Now they feel forbidding.
I am a Native Buncombe County resident for 55 years an have been around to see Asheville change over the years. It amazes me sometimes while downtown, the amount of people visiting our city, going in and out of shops, galleries, resturants, bars, enjoying the VIBE that Asheville offers. We are so very lucky to provide a uniqueness that travelers want. They make Asheville a destination for lots of reasons. One being, the openness of artists and unpretentious atmosphere that makes the tourist WANT to buy a piece of what we have here and take it home with them. My fear is that city planners are all too eager to provide more accommodations for these travelers while destroying the very thing travelers come here for. Leave the Artist, quirky shops, street performers,festivals, and Bohemian Vibe ALONE!! This authentic lifestyle cannot be replaced or recreated after big business runs everyone out of town…then you’ll be stuck with empty hotels full of over priced rooms because the mountains and The Biltmore Estate aren’t the only reasons people visit our city. I wonder how many officials, making the plans for our city, actually spend TIME outside an office on the street feeling what our visitors and locals alike feel as we enjoy what we have! Get a REAL CLUE and leave well enough alone, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!! ~ Melanie Reising