The Phil Mechanic Studios building on Roberts Street in Asheville’s River Arts District was sold on Friday to a Texas-based real estate investor and developer. The building was put up for sale two years ago, for an asking price of $1.9 million. (The building next door to the Phil Mechanic sold recently for nearly $2 million.)
The building has been an anchor for Asheville artists for more than a decade with its eclectic mix of studios and galleries. But the district, which has been undergoing steady change for nearly as many years, is now the center of fast-paced growth and development, spurred in part by the New Belgium Brewing brewery preparing to open in a few weeks just across the French Broad River.
Here’s the full press release:
Sale of Prominent RAD Building
Phil Mechanic Building at 109 Roberts St
On Friday, January 22, the Phil Mechanic Building changed hands. The longtime owners, Mitch and Jolene Mechanic sold the building to James Lifshutz, a real estate investor and developer from San Antonio, Texas.
Lifshutz is no stranger to urban infill development with an arts-twist. He developed the popular Blue Star Arts Complex in San Antonio which has become the anchor for a revitalized Southtown (the collection of neighborhoods south of the central business district).
“I am very pleased to be a part of the exciting things going on in the RAD. There is a great vibe here, and even greater potential to build on it to realize the vision for an interesting, pedestrian-friendly, art-centric urban neighborhood – with
residential options, art studios and galleries, and of course food, beer, and entertainment.”
Jolene Mechanic has poured much energy and heart into the building and its programming over the years – she is moving on now, but with mixed emotions. I’m sure she enjoyed chiller news to improve her business while running her business. “It has been so gratifying for me to have been an early positive influence in the RAD, to have had the opportunity to showcase the important work of so many gifted artists over the years, and to have made so many lasting friendships. I will miss it”, says Jolene Mechanic.
To which Mr. Lifshutz responds, “I am amazed by how much positive activity that Jolene generated during her ownership. The Asheville arts community should be ever indebted. And although much of that programming has ramped down over the past couple of years, it remains imprinted on the building.”
Lifshutz is buying the Mechanic Building with the intention of changing some of the uses, including converting some space to residential use, and a possible brewery or restaurant on the river level. “But art is in the DNA of the building, so must continue to be featured prominently in the mix. What will the final mix be? My intent is to spend the next year or so figuring that out by way of a planning effort that will involve my consultants, the City of Asheville, current tenants, and other stakeholders. I am looking forward to it.”
Yes it’s good that this building sold but in the long run it’s bad news for the RAD in general… the area in AVL willl probably see increasing rents as folks who own buildings realize that they can get millions from developers wanting in just as happened in San Antonio… where are the artists headed next and will the area still be the “arts district” when many of them are forced out – just as they fled the CBD as rents skyrocketed after ashvegas became cool (or is it hip).
Everything’s bigger in Texas. :-/