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Of interest is Question #5:

5. Should the city get involved to make sure Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts stays in Gatlinburg, and if so, what should be done?

McCOWN: I believe the city should take a strong stand to make sure that Arrowmont stays in Gatlinburg. Arrowmont is part of our culture and our heritage and we should encourage Pi Beta Phi (the national organization) to extend the leases to both Arrowmont and Pi Beta Phi elementary school. We should support changing the zoning of the Arrowmont property, or at least a portion of it, to make it an educational zone.

MONTGOMERY: As referenced in Question 2, I definitely feel Gatlinburg should do everything possible to retain Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. If it is not monetarily feasible to purchase the existing property then we should make every effort to locate suitable property within the city limits of Gatlinburg.

OWNBY: Public involvement in private enterprise should be a cautious process. The dozens of our city have the right to be involved in any such process, and if the citizenry so desires the City Government and administration should pursue any actions which are legal and appropriate to keep “Arrowmont” in downtown Gatlinburg. The school and its history are a major component of the Gatlinburg Story. The grass roots efforts to preserve the school are a perfect example of how a community can work together to attempt to keep Arrowmont.

SMITH: Arrowmont is a part of our heritage and history and it should stay in the same location. The city has already started the process to create an Educational Zone in that area.

Gatlinburg candidates respond to Mountain Press questions

By STAN VOIT

May 05, 2009

GATLINBURG — Arrowmont officials still hope the longtime arts and crafts school can remain in Gatlinburg, but they’ve found “two or three possible choices” in East Tennessee in case they have to move.

With Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women still planning to sell the property housing Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, the school has continued since last fall looking for a place to go — ideally on land they’ll own or get a long-term lease.

The school is using a grant from Pi Beta Phi Foundation to pay for a feasibility study of the final sites under consideration.

David Willard, executive director of Arrowmont, wouldn’t name those sites, but emphasized he and the board still hope to remain in Gatlinburg.

“It’s an ongoing process,” Willard said Monday. “Obviously there is more detail we can’t go into regarding specific sites. We are still in the process of looking at all that and analyzing all that.”

Last summer, Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women optioned the Arrowmont property to private developers for a planned $200 million project that would have included four hotels, a water park, condominiums and businesses. That got Arrowmont officials and supporters involved in trying to protect its operations, including seeking a new location.

In late October, Pi Beta Phi announced it was breaking off the negotiations to sell the land “because of persisting uncertainties in the current economy.” The property was to be part of a larger development project involving members of the community.

Pi Beta Phi Grand President Emily Russell Tarr said at the time, “Due to the economic crisis, we were not surprised the development has not proceeded as planned. We continue to remain committed to the best long-term interests of the Gatlinburg community as we have for nearly 100 years.”

Arrowmont has found “several excellent opportunities” in East Tennessee if the school needs to relocate, according to the school’s Web site. Those sites plus the current site are being evaluated, with Arrowmont’s priority being control of the property through ownership or “a very long-term renewable lease of the land, and the evidence of local government and community support in the form of funding, with demonstrated support for arts and culture and non-profit organizations.”

The board also is considering the amount of available land, location and configuration, opportunities for partnerships, construction costs, existing infrastructure and buildings, retail opportunities, and nearby resources.

Willard thinks Arrowmont will have a better idea of its future after the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women has its summer convention in Grapevine, Texas.

“There’s a lot of conversation about this within the fraternity itself,” Willard said. “They’ll have a chance to talk about a lot of these things at the convention.”

Arrowmont is hosting a donor breakfast at the meeting, set for June 26-30. Willard thinks the convention will clarify issues about the school’s future.

The feasibility study on the potential sites should be completed this fall.

© 2009 by mountainpress.southernheadlines.com. All rights reserved.

News from the Knoxville News-Sentinel regarding a Pi Phi Foundation grant.

GATLINBURG – The philanthropic arm of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity is giving $150,000 to Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg to boost the school’s ability to make money.

The grant, the single largest by Pi Beta Phi Fraternity Foundation to the school, will be used primarily to build Arrowmont’s marketing and development capabilities, according to an announcement from Pi Beta Phi Foundation.

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2009/mar/18/gatlinburg-school-gets-150000-grant/

Press Release from Arrowmont/Pi Phi Foundation, excerpt:

The grant was made possible through a bequest to Pi Beta Phi Foundation from Mrs. Aileen Aylsworth Welgan, a loyal member of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity and long-standing supporter of the Foundation.  Her devotion to both Pi Beta Phi and Arrowmont motivated Mrs. Welgan to bequeath a gift to the Foundation restricted for Arrowmont use.

http://www.arrowmont.org/PiPhiFoundationGrant.pdf

The News-Sentinel finally picked up the update on Arrowmont’s land and lease. Additionally, Josh Flory has a trite haiku retrospective boiling 2008 property news, including the Arrowmont debacle.

Keeping their options open: Arrowmont still seeks to buy land or relocate

Arrowmont’s lease with Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women expires in August 2011, and the fraternity “is not willing to extend the lease at this time,” Arrowmont Executive Director David Willard says on the school’s Web site.

“We understand that it is still their intention to sell the land at some point in the future,” Willard says in a Web site update on the land situation. “The fraternity has title to the land and it appears that Arrowmont does not have anything other than our lease to secure our position on the property. With this in mind, we are moving forward on several fronts.”
The Mountain Press broke the story in August that persons both locally and out of Sevier County were negotiating with Pi Beta Phi to buy the property and more surrounding it. They planned a $500 million development that would include a water park, four hotels, four shopping plazas and more. They were working through David Perella, the city’s tourism director. That deal fell apart and the fraternity withdrew from negotiations to sell the land.

“Due to the economic crisis, we were not surprised the development has not proceeded as planned,” Pi Beta Phi Grand President Emily Tarr said at the time. “We continue to remain committed to the best long-term interests of the Gatlinburg community as we have for nearly 100 years. We will stay focused on developing our literacy initiatives consistent with the mission of Pi Beta Phi.” 

Willard said the Arrowmont board is “investigating the possibility of purchasing the land.”

That means the school is seeking to have the property appraised and then figure out if it can raise the millions needed to buy it. Arrowmont leases 14 acres from Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women.

“At the same time,” Willard said, “we are looking at the possibility of relocating the school. Several individuals and organizations have expressed interest in having Arrowmont in their communities. We are evaluating every location and considering the ramifications and financial commitment that will be needed to move.”

He didn’t name those communities, but it is known that Townsend is trying to attract Arrowmont.

“As you can imagine, both of these scenarios are complicated and challenging,” Willard said. “Staff, board members and community friends are working hard to gather information that will help inform our decisions. This process will continue until we have enough data to make a recommendation that we believe will ensure the future stability and success of the organization.”

Willard insists the board is not considering closing Arrowmont.

“We are committed to continuing workshops, community classes, auctions, and gallery exhibitions, as well as all of our other programs,” he said.

For those wanting to help, he urged them to take classes or encourage others to take classes.

“Make a gift to the Friends of Arrowmont Annual Fund,” he said. “We need your financial support now to stay strong as we operate through this crisis, evaluate our options, and to cover the fees and expenses of our planning. The gift you make now will make sure that we are ready to move forward when the time comes.” 

svoit@themountainpress.com

Yesterday’s Knoxville News-Sentinel posted “Priority project seeks to address Gatlinburg’s challenges” in which Geoff Wolperts discusses the Priority Gatlinburg Project. He made several statements regarding Arrowmont:

Highlighting local crafts, products and regional cuisine are among the unique attributes that Gatlinburg should be taking advantage of when entertaining visitors, Wolpert said.

The architecture and feel of the town should be of native materials and the colors of a rustic mountain setting, he said. “It all adds up.”

To make all this a reality, Wolpert said, will require a high degree of community leadership. And he hopes the recent dust-up over the future of the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts raises the profile of some of these issues.

The sale of the downtown acreage where Arrowmont sits, he said, is not a dead issue.

“It’s not going away. It’s going to come back” as Pi Beta Phi women’s fraternity continues to seek a buyer for the property.

“I would rather have leadership come together,” he said, “and define and visualize and state what they want the community to be and then work for it to be that.”

Arrowmont yesterday posted an update regarding the ONGOING property negotiations. The last deal may have fallen through,  but as Save Arrowmont has stated previously, Arrowmont is NOT off the hook. The land and everything on it remains for sale. The fact the Fraternity wouldn’t extend the current lease only underscores this fact. Luckily, Arrowmont seems to have several very serious and solid offers for land/buildings/SUPPORT since relocation seems inevitable. Hopefully, Arrowmont leadership will act swiftly and take advantage of the goodwill and genuine community support from outlying areas. Three years is a very short time to move an entire small village. Continue Reading »

The News-Sentinel published an article regarding the cancelled Arrowmont property sale. Again, we caution against thinking Arrowmont is safe, a sale could still take place with other buyers. Emily Tarr is determined to unload what she considers a Pi Phi legacy of just “dirt.” This is not a person who values that they are the ONLY fraternity/sorority to OWN its philanthropy. And clearly, she does not value artistic endeavors. She probably buys Kincaids and makes certain everything matches the drapes and couch. Tarr’s tenure continues beyond Halloween, and that’s pretty scary. Let’s hope the Arrowmont leadership doesn’t bite the apple that Tarr just handed them only to fall into a complacent coma.

 Pi Beta Phi Arrowmont-announcement

The Pi Beta Phi Fraternity announced on its website that the Arrowmont property will not be sold. Unfortunately, this also means that Arrowmont will remain under the thumb of having Pi Beta Phi controlling their operations and future. Take one of the many offers of free land, Arrowmont, control your own destiny. Emily Tarr will still sell as soon as someone else shows up with money. Guaranteed.

Excerpt:

Pi Beta Phi Grand President Emily Russell Tarr said, “Due to the economic crisis, we were not 

surprised the development has not proceeded as planned. We continue to remain committed to the 

best long-term interests of the Gatlinburg community as we have for nearly 100 years. We will stay 

focused on developing our literacy initiatives consistent with the mission of Pi Beta Phi. We look 

forward to continuing our relationships with community leaders and leaseholders including Pi Beta 

Phi Elementary School and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.”

The Mountain Press today published an article regarding the Arrowcraft shop’s worries for its future should the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity sell the land. 

Continue Reading »

A new editorial in the Knoxville News-Sentinel discusses Arrowmont’s future. Most significant:

“Locals need to get involved. Gatlinburg needs some rules about what happens to that property. (The Arrowmont location has) the only green grass growing in Gatlinburg. (The Pi Phi property) did so much for Gatlinburg. They don’t need to give it to a developer.”

and

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner, who owns land in the development area, is pro-development. Pi Phi, according to some sources, could use the cash from a sale.

Going forward, Werner should recuse himself from any official discussions about the Arrowmont property, since he stands to profit personally.

The Knoville News-Sentinel follows up the Mountain Press article with Lori Reagan, who states the project isn’t dead. No surprise there, the Mountain Press article was essentially “reporting” that the mayor heard the same rumor as lots of people.

via Developer backs out of Arrowmont entertainment complex :
Local News : Knoxville News Sentinel
.

Now that Townsend’s campaign for Arrowmont’s relocation has intensified, the Gatlinburg government folks want to preserve its history in town. Nonetheless, as David Willard stated, the Pi Phis could still sell the land at any moment. While somewhat good news, it’s no time to relax. Emily Tarr still has the land sale $$ in her sites. Continue Reading »

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