RAD improvement projects displaces artists

Two buildings at the intersection at West Haywood Street and Riverside Drive are slated for demolition, displacing about a dozen artists. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. --A group of River Arts District (RAD) artists just learned they have 60 days to move out because their building is scheduled for demolition.

Big changes are coming to the intersection at West Haywood Street and Riverside Drive for part of the city's River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project.

Two buildings are slated for demolition at that intersection. One of those buildings houses artists and is scheduled for a partial tear down. About a dozen artists and musicians rent space inside that building.

Layne Roytman can't afford to spend all day in her studio. She works for jeweler Olivia De Soria.

"I think it's going to be really hard for me to continue to be here. I know I'll be able to work for Olivia, but as far as finding a studio space? I think it's going to be really really hard," Roytman said about staying in the River Arts District.

She just found out she has 60 days to move out of her studio that she moved into a month ago.

"It was really discouraging, extremely discouraging," Roytman said.

RELATED | What the River Arts District's future could look like

The city plans to buy land in the area to build better infrastructure, bike lanes and sidewalks. The plans have been in the works for years, but some tenants, like Roytman, are just finding out.

Painter David Berry has been in the River Arts District for about six years. He worries about studio rent going up, but says development forcing artists out isn't a story unique to Asheville.

"Just like in any other city, rents go up and we find someplace else. The artists that sell a lot will stay, and then..." Berry said.

Roytman said emerging artists are being hit the hardest. "I'm gonna crank out as much art as I possibly can," she said about the final six weeks in her studio.

RELATED | Planners ask for public input on RAD rezoning plan

She's worried about who's next.

"If studios are being torn down, who's going to build new studios? Who's going to care about affordable studios," Roytman asked.

The city is giving affected tenants like Roytman financial compensation, but she said she was told that would be $200.

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