Positive steps keep coming in fight to keep Arrowmont downtown

Sep. 23, 2013 @ 12:01 AM

The good news keeps coming for Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and the community of Gatlinburg regarding the community heirloom.

On Thursday the Gatlinburg City Commission got a round of applause from the school’s supporters as it tentatively approved a $3.7 million bond issue to help keep the school at its downtown location at 556 Parkway.

The city has taken part in negotiations to help keep the historic school, which celebrated its 100th year as a place of education last year, downtown.

The property where the school is located is owned by Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, but the group is working out the details to sell it to developer Bob Bentz.

While he can’t offer a lot of specifics due to a confidentiality agreement, Bentz confirmed recently that mediation over the Arrowmont property downtown seems to be moving positively for all the parties.

Bentz is looking to acquire the campus to build a retail complex. Arrowmont personnel and the school’s supporters have been working to keep at least part of the school downtown, with support from local officials.

The $3.7 million bond from the city would be used to help pay to keep part of the school downtown.

Bill May, executive director of Arrowmont, said this past week that the school will have to raise additional funds, but the tentative agreement could leave the school in control of its own destiny.

Bentz confirmed that the agreement could lead to Arrowmont acquiring property where some of the campus sits, allowing at least part of the school to remain. “Eventually, the goal is for Arrowmont to acquire the property and Arrowmont is working toward that,” he said. “We want this to be win-win for everybody.”

Things are certainly looking better for the school and its historic place in the Gatlinburg community than they were back in January, when Pi Beta Phi first agreed to sell the property.

Let’s hope the positive steps keep coming. Arrowmont is a unique treasure for Gatlinburg, and its continued operation downtown is a good thing for both the city and Sevier County as a whole.