The River Arts District is an area of former industrial buildings located near the French Broad River in Asheville. Many artists have moved to the River Arts District to create and display their work. The growth of the River Arts District is a result of RiverLink's design to redevelop the urban riverfront corridor, build and expanded from the 1989 Asheville Riverfront Plan, which won the American Planning Association Award and represents the consolidation of over 20 years of community planning.
Since the early 19th century, the riverfront's even ground and open space made it a popular trade route. Farmers, homesteads, inns, and small local stores took advantage of the area for its economic opportunities. The river's natural attributes drew crowds and Asheville grew to be a small and economically adorned city.
With the first railroad in Asheville in 1879, industries began to locate along the French Broad River. By the early 20th century, Asheville's portion of the French Broad riverfront had become a prime location for travelers and a go-to recreational and leisure spot for locals.
In the 1970s, many artists in North Carolina began to move into abandoned buildings in the River Arts District. As a result of this, the non-profit organization RiverLink began working to renovate these buildings. Artists also began taking over abandoned warehouses. As of 2010, over 140 art studios occupied 16 buildings. In 2012, 165 artists in 19 buildings opened their studios for the River Arts District Studio Stroll.
The River Arts District is home to the famous 12 Bones Smokehouse and New Belgium Brewing Company.
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