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Ashvegas: Asheville's River Arts District ablaze with activity

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4/23/2012 - Ashvegas: Asheville's River Arts District ablaze with activity
by Jason Sanford - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- It's hard to stop talking about all the great things happening in the River Arts District. The strip of Depot Street and Riverside Drive that's home to artists and craftspeople is simply ablaze with activity. And that's despite the big announcement a couple of weeks ago that New Belgium Brewing was planning to spend $175 million to build its new East Coast brewing operation nearby on Craven Street.

Here's a quick look at some of what's going on:

o New businesses: Matthew Logan, the owner of the popular 5 Walnut wine bar downtown, is working on plans to open another in the RAD. I haven't seen his plans yet, but a couple of people who have tell me they're impressed. Asheville Adventure Rentals, to open near Pearson Bridge, will be renting bikes, boats and scheduling chartered fishing trips on the French Broad River starting this summer. And longtime Asheville residents Fur Banks and Kathy Watson have opened Fast Lane Electric Bikes, an electric bike shop that offers service, sales and rentals.

o Hot spots for more development: There are plenty of hot spots for development. The former Dave Steel location at the corner of Clingman Avenue and Roberts Street has been cleaned up and sits vacant for now. But there's no doubt that New Belgium's announcement could give the property owners new confidence to move forward with redevelopment plans. The same is true for Mountain Housing Opportunities, which is still working on getting financing to renovate the old Glen Rock Hotel. The old hotel was supposed to be redeveloped alongside new construction on the Glen Rock Depot, now a thriving mixed-used development of affordable rental units and commercial space.

o Studio strolls expanded: The RAD has been home to twice-a-year studio strolls, huge hits with locals and tourists . Now look for studio strolls every second Saturday from now until December. Yellow pennants outside studios beckon visitors to explore. The original studio strolls will still happen the second Saturdays of June and November.

o New music series: RiverMusic is a new music series planned for the RAD. Look for it this summer. Details are still being worked out, but imagine a local band, a few local food trucks and happy-go-lucky residents hanging out by the river.

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