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DOWNTOWN ROUNDUP: Hands On! to expand

Hands On! will have a street-front presence after a renovation and expansion. [HANDS ON! RENDERING] Hands On! will have a street-front presence after a renovation and expansion. [HANDS ON! RENDERING]

Since it opened 11 years ago, Hands On! Children’s Museum has served more than 250,000 kids and their parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers. And it’s done so in somewhat a hidden location, in a back condo space of the old Rosdon Mall in the 300 block of North Main. That will change when the museum moves into newly acquired space that fronts on Main.

“We want the museum to be a family destination for this county,” says Executive Director Joseph Knight. “The whole community is going to be invited through focus groups, the community at large and with kids to get a sense of what they want to see in a museum.”
The museum will more than double in size, from 4,500 to 11,000 square feet.
“We’re having to rent one classroom and two off-site storage sites,” Knight said. “So it’s a good problem to have and it shows how much the community values Hands On and it shows the need for us to evolve. We have just outgrown our space. We want to be world-class, high quality and most of all unique to our community.”
Downtown development director Lew Holloway, who also serves on the Hands On! board, said the expansion will give downtown another asset to draw visitors and local folks.
“I think a really great thing happening in our downtown,” he said. “After a series of stakeholder and community feedback sessions, they’ll be developing museum displays and how the space will work overall.”
IMG 4297Joseph Knight shows a rendering of Hands On! expansion.The museum has retained Haizlip Studio, a museum design firm with offices in Memphis and Asheville, to guide the planning and development of the expansion, which will involve a complete renovation of the existing space.
“Every museum that Haizlip Studio designs is very unique to the culture, history, and values of the community,” Hands On! said in a news release. “Their track record for designing one-of-a-kind museum environments is outstanding, and to have a nationally-recognized museum design firm less than an hour from Hands On! is phenomenal.”
Haizlip has led planning and design efforts for Charlotte’s Discovery Place Nature, the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem, KidSenses Children’s Museum of Rutherfordton, South Carolina’s EdVenture Children’s Museum, and the Children’s Museum of South Dakota.
“We invite the community to work with us to re-imagine our children’s museum,” Knight said. The planning workshops for parents, kids and the community at-large will be led by Haizlip starting next month. The Master Planning process will take about six months. Details about the community workshops for the master plan will be released later this month.
The museum plans to renovate the storefront space first, then work on the existing space.
“There will always be an open element but it will be over a period of a couple of years at the back end of that we’ll have the entire museum renovated and reopened,” Holloway said. “It’s a very exciting project. I think it’s good growth for our downtown. You’ve seen the aquarium do the same kind of investment in their infrastructure over the past couple of years. Those destinations are a part of what the community uses plus people coming from outside the community. It’s part of being an entertainment district. Being family friendly is an advantage for us and a market strength we have that not every downtown can deliver on.”DOWNTOWN ROUNDUP

Museum expansion, 50 office jobs,
bathrooms, new restaurant coming


Blue Ridge Health will move administrative jobs to the old Coldwell Banker building on North King Street.
BILL MOSS/Hendersonville Lightning

Hands On! children’s museum will get a storefront presence with a new expansion.
Haizlip Studio

The new public rest rooms on Fifth Avenue West are expected to be open by next spring.

BILL MOSS/Hendersonville Lightning

Among the closings downtown are Jongo Java, a coffee shop and smoothie bar at 117 S. Main St., and Lime Leaf Thai Fusion at 342 N. Main St.

BILL MOSS/Hendersonville Lightning

Rail hed

Tight labor
market a ‘good
problem to have’


Other available photos:

Lime Leaf

Rooftop restaurant

File photo of Main Street
Another Hands On! photo (email)

Lightning Editor

Yet two doors down, Hands On! is embarking on an expansion that will more than double its floor space and give the children’s museum a visible street presence for the first time. And a block off Main, a nonprofit health care agency will soon move its administrative and support services into the old Coldwell Banker and Wingate University building, adding 50 workers to help support the retailers, restaurants and other businesses on Main Street five days a week.
It’s all part of the ever-churning nature of Main Street, which in a booming economy continues to thrive even if the names on the doors occasionally change.
“There’s lots going on right now,” said Lew Holloway, the city’s downtown development director. “I’m as busy as I’ve been in a while.”
Here’s a roundup of the changes coming to downtown:

Blue Ridge Health moving to King Street

Blue Ridge Community Health Services last month purchased the 11,000-square-foot building on North King Street at Fifth Avenue and will begin moving workers in as soon as it completes repairs and renovations.
“Blue Ridge Health has grown tremendously in the past few years,” said Dr. Richard Hudspeth, CEO of Blue Ridge Health. “We needed additional space. Some of our administrative space is in our clinical space and we need to keep our clinical space for the demand we’re seeing. Really all our service lines — pediatrics, family medicine, behavioral health, dental and pharmacy — are expanding. We explored a lot of different options and this was really the best one.”
He expects the agency to move 40 to 50 people into the space. The property has 50 parking spaces so having a new employer downtown won’t add to the central business district parking crunch. The agency bought the property last month from Boyd L. “Bub” Hyder for $1.7 million.
“I think it’s good news for Henderson County,” Hudspeth said. “I think it’s a good thing for downtown. This was a space that really works well for us.”
A business that adds workers within walking distance of Main Street always helps downtown, Holloway said.
“It adds more employees right in the downtown district coming downtown to take advantage of shopping and food,” he said. “Those are great jobs to have in that kind of proximity to downtown. I’m sure that was one of the factors in choosing the property. We think of that as a win and a great addition to the downtown area. We really do have a tremendous health care economy downtown and it’s another example of while not everybody lives in the city of Hendersonville a lot of people really do work there.”

Hands On! Executive Director Joseph Knight shows a rendering of the new museum front on Main Street.
Hands On! expands
Lime Leaf closed on Sunday.
Downtown restrooms
When it comes to downtown, parking and bathrooms are the complaints that Holloway hears the most. After years of talk public rest rooms downtown and where they would go, the City Council finally acted, authorizing the project in the 500 block of Fifth Avenue West next to the Dandelion restaurant.
The project, currently under design, will include a men’s room (three stalls and three urinals), a six-stall women’s room and a family rest room. All three bathrooms will have baby changing tables. The city will use the upstairs for the downtown development office. Each floor has 2,200 square feet.
“We’re outfitting it for our programming needs,” Holloway said, including storage, volunteer meeting and work rooms, and potential staff increases “we see on the horizon.”
Contract at November council meeting. 90-120 days construction. mid to late spring.
About 2,200 square feet on each floor.
The hours?
“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Holloway said. “We’re talking to other municipalities about what’s worked well for them and what hasn’t. I’ve talked with folks at Black Mountain, which has a public facility, and folks at Highlands.”
The public restrooms, the only ones available on the north end of Main Street, are expected to be open by mid to late spring.

Seventh Avenue streetscape
The city also is accelerating efforts at Seventh Avenue revitalization. The City Council is expected to OK a rezoning this week of 65 lots in a five-block area between Seventh Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The rezoning allows greater flexibility in development. Planning and design is under way for the new police station, on Ashe Street, and streetscape work “is starting to heat up over the next six months,” Holloway said. “I think that’ll start to get interesting and exciting. There’s going to be more stuff popping up over there over the next couple of months.”
As for a hotel downtown, “We’re still trying to be an active partner in helping property owners in and around the district identify a way to get that done,” he said.
And finally, after bathrooms and parking, the rooftop restaurant may be the third most-asked question. More than six years under construction, in the 200 block, the building is close to completion.
“Latest I heard was that they were working through final C.O. (certificate of occupancy) and I had gotten word that the county was ready to sign off on it,” he said. “I don’t know what that translates to for them to actually getting open.”