Riverfront revitalization finally arrives in River Arts District

Riverfront revitalization finally arrives in River Arts District: Ashvegas presents the news from Buncombe’s boom town
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A multimillion-dollar infrastructure project that’s transformed a 2.2-mile stretch of roadway in the Asheville River Arts District finally wraps up this spring.

City officials say the roughly $50 million work to bring greenways and bike lanes, roundabouts, sidewalks, and stormwater management improvements to the roadway bordering the French Broad River will kick-start a long-awaited development boom along the riverfront. The area has long been home to industrial businesses and artist studios in more recent decades.

The construction along Riverside Drive and Lyman Street started four years ago with the demolition of old warehouses and the building that was home to the original location of 12 Bones barbecue restaurant. It addressed frequent flooding by raising the roadbed, installing new sewer pipes, and adding managed wetland areas.

At the heart of the project is what city officials call Asheville’s first “complete street”—one that encompasses curbs and gutters, sidewalks, a dedicated bike lane, and a greenway. Other new amenities include street trees, public art, picnic tables, and a boat ramp. The River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project, or RAD TIP, was paid for by a mix of local, state, and federal monies.

The city is planning a month-long celebration to mark the completion of the construction, from Earth Day (April 22) to the birthday of Wilma Dykeman (May 20), the Buncombe County native, author, and environmentalist.

The economic development expected to follow the improvements has already started. Here’s a look at some highlights:

  • Second Gear, Asheville’s 16-year-old outdoor gear and consignment shop, is expanding to a new location at 99 Riverside Drive. A spring opening is planned following renovation work that will make 10,000 square feet of space available to Second Gear and two other enterprises. Adventure Company is a biking, paddling, and hiking tour business, and the Sugar and Snow Gelato Cafe will offer grab-and-go foods and beverages.
  • The Radview is a mixed-use project that includes 26 residential units as well as retail and artist studio space. The building, going up on Park Avenue North, is the first new one to be built in the RAD in decades.
  • The Foundation, a collection of renovated warehouses that is home to an eclectic mix—everything from artist work spaces and galleries to a restaurant, brewery, coffee shop, and DIY skateboard park—continues to thrive. A new addition, in spring, will be Marquee, a curated marketplace featuring more than 100,000 square feet of antiques, vintage décor, art, jewelry, and craft items 
  • 95 Roberts St., a mixed-use project, encompasses the Kent Building at 95 Roberts St. as well as the Phil Mechanic Building next door. Plans call for remodeling both buildings, with a 70-room boutique hotel and retail space at 95 Roberts Street. The two buildings will share courtyard space and each will contain a restaurant.