Buzzworm news briefs

New digs for the ACRC

Local community-service and activist group the Asheville Community Resource Center recently relocated to a new location at 135 Hilliard Ave. The group has been seeking a larger space than their last home, a comparatively cramped office on Carolina Lane. The Hilliard location is the third for the group in the last two years.

According to ACRC collective member Finn Finneran, the group hopes than the new space will soon be able to host many long-time ACRC-based programs, including communal kitchen Food Not Bombs, transgender support and health group Tranzmission, the Prison Books Program and the Asheville Free School. One program not being relocated to the new space is the ACRC community reading room, which Finneran said will ultimately be replaced with a free computer lab.

“[The reading room] was becoming more of a drop-in space than any of us had really anticipated,” said Finneran about the collective’s reasons for not reopening the program. Some in the downtown business community have claimed that the ACRC’s open-door policies and programs promoted vagrancy, which is widely believed to have been one motivation behind the group’s controversial removal from a space on North Lexington Avenue in early 2004.

Although the new location is up and running as a meeting area, many details about the ACRC’s future are still unresolved. Some luxuries — such as the collective’s free public phone — will have to wait until the group has sufficient means to fund them. Finneran noted that the collective plans to host a variety of fundraisers in coming months to offset the ACRC’s operating and relocation costs.

For more information, contact the ACRC via e-mail (acrc@riseup.net).

— Steve Shanafelt

Take that, Lincoln Center

Hendersonville may be a far cry from Manhattan, but when the town decided to build a new center for the arts, some of the nation’s top architectural firms lined up to design the space.

And now, years after the Mill Center for the Arts was first conceived, a designer has been chosen to transform the defunct Grey Hosiery Mill into an auditorium, black-box theater, amphitheater and rehearsal rooms. The winning firm is Brian Healy Architects of Boston.

That fact that Healy won the job is important because, after all, it was a contest (see “New Grind,” Aug. 17 Xpress). Funded by a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a jury of national professionals and local judges pored over some 58 entries.

“We agreed on a competition to see what kind of really exciting designs would come out,” says Mill Center Interim Executive Director Brenda Coates. “We wanted a really first-rate design, but instead of building it and hoping they would come, we wanted to define the community’s need.” That done, the Center’s professional advisor, William McMinn, designed program guidelines from which the competing architects worked.

According to Chicago Architecture Foundation director and Mill Center chair of jury Ned Cramer, the winning submission “reconciled itself to this very diverse set of purposes within a complex that manages to serve both the singular identity of the Mill Center and the multiple constituencies it serves.

“This is a building that we feel expresses both Hendersonville’s desire to respect its own sense of place through an expression of its landscape … and a desire to mark its place on the map moving forward,” he adds.

Acording to Coates, the project is slated for completion in late 2008, with ground-breaking taking place sometime in 2007 — a delay caused by the need to raise funds for construction. “If we had the money next month, heck, we’re ready to go!” the director quips.

For now, the Center is gearing up for a community meeting with the architect scheduled for late this month. And for those interested in the blueprints that didn’t make the cut, the exhibit of those designs is currently on a six-month tour around the Henderson County area.

For more information on the Mill Center for the Arts, call 697-5700.

— Alli Marshall

If you had a hammer

While some of us are overeating and kicking back to watch professional athletes brutalize each another for big bucks, a team of local builders will be spending this Thanksgiving in New Orleans rebuilding the devastated Ninth Ward. The builders will work with a nonprofit affinity group, Common Ground Relief, that has already established a community center in the Algiers neighborhood.

“They are in desperate need of supplies and able bodies, both of which we intend to provide,” says Jonathan Robert, one of the volunteers. “We are seeking donations from local businesses and have already secured the help of some local contractors and merchants.”

The team is encouraging donors to buy Home Depot gift cards in any dollar amount to contribute to the effort. Common Ground Relief is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and all donations are tax deductible.

Contact Nick Hunter for more information about the project at 279-5377.

— Cecil Bothwell

Gala at Zealandia

Keeping history alive isn’t cheap. Just ask the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, an organization that has spent nearly 30 years working to restore many of Asheville’s historic structures. In extreme cases, they’ve even had to pick up and move entire houses — a procedure that is anything but inexpensive.

Thankfully, raising funds can also be an excellent excuse to party. To that end, the PSABC will host a gala and silent auction at Zealandia, a sprawling, 28-room Tudor mansion set atop Beaucatcher Mountain.

“It’s a great chance for people to get to see the building,” says PSABC board member Mary Jo Brezny, who also notes that being able to enjoy historic buildings is part of the reason preservation is so important.

The event, which begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17, will feature food and drink, along with with live music by noted jazz keyboardist Tom Coppola. Tickets are $40 per person or $60 per couple. For information, reservations and directions, visit www.psabc.org or call 254-2343.

— Steve Shanafelt

Of time and the rivers

You may wonder how the chicken got on Asheville’s Chicken Hill. You may not know that one of the country’s best-known philanthropists donated money for completing a church in the city. And many people don’t realize that a soccer field sits where a lake used to be.

To give a dose of Asheville’s history, focusing on the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers, and build support for efforts to restore local riverfronts, RiverLink is offering its bus tours through next May. The Asheville nonprofit works to revitalize the French Broad River watershed as a place for homes, commerce and recreation.

The tours, which begin in September each year, will continue Nov. 21, Nov. 28, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19, and run from noon to 2 p.m. The route begins downtown and wends through the River District on Lyman Street, Amboy and Meadow roads and Riverside Drive before reaching Swannanoa River and Tunnel roads.

Along the way, participants learn of John D. Rockefeller’s aid in 1890 for construction of the former West End Baptist Church on Roberts Street in the Chicken Hill area. They hear theories for the origin of Chicken Hill’s name — residents hosted cockfights to raise money in tight times, and a chicken hatchery was located off of Roberts Street. And they learn that the soccer fields on Azalea Road are on the site of the former Lake Craig, once a recreation spot.

Some industrial buildings on the French Broad are dilapidated since their use as cotton mills, tanneries, ice houses and other businesses in the first half of the 20th century. But many refurbished structures now are residences, art galleries and studios, coffee shops and other small businesses.

RiverLink has been closely involved in the renewal efforts. “Adaptive reuse of historic buildings is one of our focuses,” says Alesha Myers, director of volunteer services. The organization has also helped build greenways and parks, and is restoring a 1.3-mile stretch on the Swannanoa.

Registration is required for the tours, which are free for RiverLink members and $10 for nonmembers. To register, call Myers at 252-8474, ext. 118.

— Jess Clarke

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