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Watauga County Arts Council Seeks To Lease County Property That’s Been On Market for $625,000

By Jesse Wood

April 1, 2013. On Tuesday, Watauga County Arts Council Executive Director Cherry Johnson will present a request to the Watauga County Board of Commissioners to lease a county-owned building located at 377 Shadowline Drive.

Photo by Ken Ketchie

After exiting the Jones House last year, Johnson moved its offices into a three-room suite in the Appalachian Enterprise Center, which was donated by the Watauga Committee of 100, and moved its gallery into the Suite A of the green building next to Murphy’s Restaurant and Pub, which was also donated – this time by the Winkler Organization.

However, Appalachian Enterprise Center management changed in November, leading Johnson to consolidate into one room, according to memos in the Tuesday’s meeting packet, and the Watauga Arts Council also plans on leaving the green building in late spring – all of which requires Johnson to now seek new space.

Johnson is propsing a five-year lease (with an optional five-year extension) of the building at $1 per year to host art galleries, creative classes, a gift shop and more to establish the Blue Ridge ArtSpace in conjunction with the Michael Patricelli Craft Enrichment Program at ASU and the ASU Community School of Music. The space would host learning activities in virtually all of the arts. 

The property, located at the intersection of Shadowline Drive and State Farm Road, is currently for sale. At the board’s annual retreat, County Manager Deron Geouque said the property is on the market for $625,000. He added that the property had received some inquiries but no offers.

On Monday morning, Commissioner Perry Yates expressed support for the Watauga County Arts Council, adding that he recently met with Johnson and came away impressed, much more knowledgeable about the community work the council and its volunteers have done.

“I am for the arts … I think its something we could do to help the folks of the county … I definitely want to help them. If not a long lease, as long as we can afford it. We’ve got to look at that situation,” said Yates, who plays guitar, piano, bass, mandolin and a “little” banjo.

He added that he didn’t know all of the details regarding the property. He didn’t know if the property has received any offers and said he wouldn’t make up his mind on how he would vote until discussing the issue with the rest of the commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting.

“$625,000 is a lot of money,” Yates said, but he added, “Anytime you let a building sit by itself it just runs down with no activity.”

As for the county’s use of the building, talk at the retreat included the possibility of moving the Watauga County Board of Elections into the Shadowline building. 

Currently, the county funds the arts council with $8,800 per year. 

In a memo to the commissioners, Geouque noted that the commissioners had several options: lease the building to Watauga County Arts Council with any stipulations from commissioners and the possibility of using the $8,800 to subsidize the rent; use the building for county space; lease the building to WCAC until the property is sold; continue marketing the property; or some variation of the options proposed above.