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Seventh Avenue starting to feel growing pains

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Seventh Avenue is suffering some unwanted consequences from a situation it hasn’t had to worry about in a long time — growth of retail businesses and foot traffic.

Business owners in the Seventh Avenue engaged in a sometimes heated discussion Monday night about increasing traffic in an alley behind the Hendersonville Rescue Mission that also serves a new brewery, a new pizzeria and other retail businesses in the 300 block of up-and-coming Seventh Avenue.

Rescue Mission clients congregate in the alley while they’re waiting to get into the building for meals and other services.

Matthew Hickman, the owner of Underground Bakery and Roaster, brought the matter up during a regular meeting of the Seventh Avenue Advisory Board.

“The main reason it should be discussed is it’s becoming a public safety issue,” Hickman said. “In the past, traffic has not really been an issue and now it is an issue. … If it isn’t addressed somebody’s going to get hurt and I’m going to feel really sorry about that. The idea is not to point fingers but bring it to the committee because I think we’ve been pretty effective at resolving issues.”

Anthony McMinn, director of the Rescue Mission, urged the business owners and the committee not to overreact and do something that would disrupt the mission’s longtime service to the poor and homeless, which predates the newer businesses.

“In 20 years there’s never been an accident,” McMinn said. “Why don’t we put up some pedestrian warning signs? We’re talking about a public access alley. They have as much right to be in the alley as anybody else.”

Becky Ayers, the co-owner of the new Triskelion Brewing Co., said she had been the target of harassing comments from some mission clients waiting in the alley.

“You know what I’m dealing with,” McMinn said. “I’m dealing with alcoholics, I’m dealing with people with a drug addiction, I’m dealing with mentally ill people. I can’t say what people are going to say. At the end of the day, it’s kind of hard not to feel like this organization is under attack because this is the first time I’ve heard about this.”

He pledged that if he heard about any harassment from Rescue Mission clients, he’d put a stop to it.

“If that happened you should have let me know,” he told Ayers. “We’ve been here a long time. You knew we were here when you came in and built right beside us. … We will do what we can to help you. We have always tried to be a good neighbor. These guys have just as much right to walk up an alley as anyone. If they’re harassing you, call me.”

The business owners asked City Manager John Connet whether the city could intervene with signage or police patrols.

“It is considered a private alley. The city doesn’t maintain it,” Connet said. “It’s never been dedicated to the public for maintenance. We don’t provide any maintenance. (Crystal Barbershop owner) Red Price actually resurfaced it the last time. If we’ve not accepted it for maintenance it doesn’t technically become public in the sense of maintenance, in the sense of law enforcement, handling traffic laws and things like that. Apparently Red took it upon himself to pave it.”

The advisory board asked police Capt. Chris LeRoy, who also attended the meeting, what kind of traffic enforcement police could do. Not much, he said, because it’s not a public street.

“It would be treated like a parking lot,” he said. “Very rarely do we charge people in parking lots with traffic violations.”

Hickman agreed to work with McMinn on a solution.

“Personally I feel a commitment and a responsibility to address it because no one spends more time behind that building than I do,” Hickman said. “There’s no place for those people to go. That’s part of the problem.”

Board member Chris Cormier said the construction traffic will subside once the brewery and Marco’s Pizza are finished building.

“The problem I have with it is it’s private property,” advisory board Chair Dennis Dunlap said. “I don’t think it’s our call. It’s not property that we have any jurisdiction over.”

Triskelion Brewing Co. and Marco’s Pizza, a national chain that specializes in eat-in and delivery of pizza, subs and wings, are not the only new businesses on Seventh Avenue. Other businesses:

  • Brenda Coates plans to open a brandy bar at 504 Seventh Ave. Coates is working with Carriage House distillery to make her own brandy. She’s been working on a pear brandy and a cherry brandy. She decided to operate as a private club because that makes it easier to serve food. She is working with food suppliers including Hickory Nut Farm for salami, local cheese, Tuxedo pickles and relishes and Van’s Chocolates. “It’s all going to be local products served with the brandy,” she said. Coates is scheduled to appear before the city Zoning Board of Adjustment to request a conditional use permit for a private club. The membership fee would be $1 for five years, she said.
  • Root Performance Fitness plans to open at 330 Seventh Ave.
  • Oriole Mill at 701 Oriole Drive has opened a retail outlet. The mill specializes in high-quality Jacquard and Dobby woven coverlets, bedding and throws.