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Creation of business alliance caps year of phenomenal growth for Asheville's River Arts District



12/8/2011 - Creation of business alliance caps year of phenomenal growth for Asheville's River Arts District
by Jason Sandford - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- The River Arts District has a new voice.

The River Arts District Business Association, a group of business owners in the area that has been meeting since last summer, recently cemented its organization by electing a slate of officers. The group's purpose -- to bring business owners together to speak with one strong voice.

That's particularly important in dealing with local government bureaucracy on nuts-and-bolts issues, such as parking or other regulatory matters, said Chall Gray, owner of The Magnetic Field restaurant and theater in the Glen Rock Depot building. It's important, too, in a city where everyone seems to have an opinion and isn't shy about sharing it.

A unified voice is also critical as development moves ahead.

Changes have been significant in the past year. The Pink Dog Creative artist studios -- once mostly empty warehouse space -- now crackle with creativity. The former decrepit Depot Club is now a beautiful home for more artists. The Glen Rock Depot mixed-use building of apartments and commercial space is thriving, while two new restaurants less than a year old --White Duck Taco and The Junction -- provide delicious draws.

There's even more to come.

The old Silver Dollar Cafe on Clingman Avenue is getting new life as The Asheville Public restaurant, which plans to open in a couple of weeks. And there's a prime piece of property sitting empty right now across from the Clingman Cafe. The site used to be home to Dave Steel Co., but the warehouse has been demolished and the site is primed for new construction. Everyone's waiting to see what will develop there.

Tripp Howell, owner of the Clingman Cafe, said getting busines s owners on the same page now is important as more and more attention comes the way of the River Arts District. The area has the potential to provide significant growth for the city's tax base in coming years, and owners need to be prepared, Howell said.

The business association fits in well with the new Riverfront Redevelopment Commission now working to advise Asheville City Council on what's to come, as well as the established nonprofit RiverLink, which does so much to promote, protect and clean up riverside property.

It looks like all the pieces are in place to keep a hot zone hot.

This is the opinion of Jason Sandford. Contact him at 232-5851 or Find Ashvegas updates at

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