Five things to watch in 2013:
Downtown Hendersonville: Hendersonville shoppers and businesses will welcome the completion of the final two blocks of the Main Street makeover. The fourth phase of the project, which had the primary purpose of replacing water and sewer lines underground, has its highest visibility above ground. The work in the last phase could have its second-most dramatic impact — after the Allen-to-First revival south of the Historic Courthouse. Removing awnings and the glass-box balcony of the Skyland Hotel will open up that block in a transformative way. But that's nothing compared with the public art, the selection of which has become predictably controversial. After rejecting a soaring cascade sculpture as too abstract, the City Council ordered downtown coordinator Lew Holloway and city engineers to come back with a clock tower design. Some Main Street merchants have objected to the idea as a boring cliché and are trying to persuade the council to reconsider. Here's betting that this horse will be ridden for a while before it throws its rider or collapses of exhaustion. Biz611, an incubator office and model of sustainability, will become the biggest downtown jobs creator since the Wingate graduate school programs.
Boomtown I: Mills River will become ground zero of growth in 2013, as the new Ingles opens, Sierra Nevada starts brewing beer, the Legacy life-care community begins to grow and commercial developers discover the availability of a new sewer line. The Ingles shopping center has new storefront space in addition to the supermarket, and that is expected to fill within a year. Sierra Nevada becomes the most significant employer to locate in Henderson County for many years because of its community-oriented culture, its green sensibilities, its outdoor recreation collaboration and tourism-generating potential.
Boomtown II: Fletcher gets an echo from the Sierra Nevada boom because it's home to the brewery's rail shipping operation. Fletcher also will open its new Town Hall this year, a complex that town leaders hope will become the catalyst for a Heart of Fletcher development, and the new Mission-Pardee health campus on the county line is scheduled to open in November.
Parks and recreation: The visible improvements at Jackson Park, the county's new Athletics and Activity Center at the former Hendersonville Christian School campus and potentially a Flat Rock park at Highland Lake Golf Course are only part of the story here. The larger theme, as we've said in this space before, is the way parks and greenways have become part of the economic development and tourism promotions strategy.
Flat Rock Playhouse: No, the Fat Lady hasn't sung. With the support of the board, Playhouse director Vincent Marini now has undisputed control of the Playhouse operation and the authority to carry out its strategic vision, having shed all but a couple of holdovers from the Farquhar era. The 2013 lineup of shows and Music on the Rock tributes ought to have wide appeal and it ought to make money, if Marini can resist overspending and the board can closely monitor the books. What to watch early on: A consultant's study ordered by the Tourism Development Authority promises to measure how much tourism dollars the Playhouse generates. It will be an important number.