the Riverviews Development Project
As many industries moved out of downtown Lynchburg, the former vital riverfront laid in waste. Yet this very “weakness,” empty run-down buildings, is ultimately strength. Forward-thinking citizens with reverence for Lynchburg’s past transformed a neglected space into vital, unique destination for residents and tourists–Riverviews Artspace.
In 1994, community members formed a private non-profit organization with the goal to purchase and renovate one of downtown Lynchburg’s historic riverfront warehouses to provide living and studio spaces for artists and other people. Affordable space, innovatively adapted, reduces financial risk and encourages experimentation. Originally, the organization planned to purchase “the Lukens Building” but in a dramatic twist, on Christmas Eve, shortly before the mortgage was to be signed, the building burnt to the ground.
The board members thus found the Craddock-Terry Shoe Warehouse. The 100-year-old building had not been used for several years; the last use for a shoe warehouse. Thick black soot coated everything in the building. Wooden shoe storage boxes were piled high in rows on every floor. On the main floor, rows and rows of metal shelves, were bolted together. The lower floor was filled with all manner of industrial debris. On the very lowest level was an archaic furnace that proved to be in working order.
Financial support from the City of Lynchburg and its Industrial Development Authority, and economic support in the form of historic tax credits, was combined with more than $700,000 from foundations and private donors to fund the purchase and renovations.
The board hired an architect to design the interior space for living and working spaces for artists and the renovations began. The building was renamed “Riverviews and basic space was rented to selected artists for studio space. These artists energetically cleaned their areas and set up walls and doors utilizing objects found in the building.
The “Riverviews idea” and its innovative development plan passed the ultimate reality check—within one year of opening Riverviews was economically viable with 95% of units occupied. These incubator units attracted artists, designers and other creative entrepreneurs. In 2009, 22 live/work units were sold as condominiums, and one commercial/studio space was sold.