Lease approval gives Holston Mountain Artisans a new home
By DEBRA McCOWN | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | December 14, 2009*** This story was published in the Bristol Herald Courier on Wed., Dec. 9.***
ABINGDON, Va. – The Holston Mountain Artisans have a new home.
Donna Price, manager of the nonprofit craft-guild's shop, said the group is "relieved and very grateful" after the Washington County Board of Supervisors voted 7-0 Tuesday to lease a building to the town for the guild to use.
The artisans, who've sold their wares at the Cave House for more than three decades, are required to leave their longtime location by the end of the year because that building, donated for use by the Porterfield family over the years, needs renovation.
There's been much worry in recent months over where the craft shop would go; and then the sheriff's office vacated its offices on Park Street when its personnel moved to their new facility.
So, with Tuesday's vote, the county board agreed to lease to the town the former Washington County Sheriff's Office administration building and the small building behind it. The lease is for $1 a year, for the next two years.
"You can move in tomorrow, Donna," Supervisor Phil McCall said after the vote.
The town will be responsible for utilities, insurance and any improvements to the buildings, Assistant County Administrator Christy Parker said. She also said the town's vision is for the Park Street area to become "kind of an artisan alley" in the future.
The Abingdon Town Council voted in September to create a new "arts and cultural district" that comes with tax credits for those who develop arts and cultural venues in that part of town.
"I'm just real pleased, Abingdon Mayor Ed Morgan said of the county board's approval of the lease.
"I think this is going to be good for both the cooperative and the community," Morgan said. "It will preserve a long-standing business that's been important to the arts community, and it will enable us to promote some positive development in the Park Street area and put a vacant building ... into productive use."
Morgan said his hope is that the old jail, which sits beside the old sheriff's administration building, can be considered for use by the town as well, for an arts incubator or similar project involving studio space for artists. He said development of the arts is "a key element" of Abingdon's future.
"There's a lot happening on Park Street right now," Morgan said, "and we think that having a facility like the craft shop there in the [former] sheriff's office will definitely encourage some other things to happen on that street."
Board of Supervisors members said Tuesday that future use of the buildings – and the old jail – will be discussed in detail in the coming months.
"The committee felt like, that the Cave House [craft shop] not only benefits the town but also benefits the county," said Supervisor Odell Owens, who serves on the board's facilities committee.
"Thank you," Price said after Tuesday's vote. "A huge thank you."