History is a fascination of mine. Not only does history repeat itself but ideas embedded in history often come true in the future. Nicola Tesla secured funding from JP Morgan in 1901, with his prediction of wi-fi and the devices that would use this technology. However, when Tesla wanted to utilize the technology not only to send wireless telegraphs but to power homes without cables, Morgan cut the funding as Tesla’s vision was presented without a solution to meter homes and monetize the idea.
The Vision Group name came about as futuristic thinking is also a fascination for me, and one of my Strengthsfinder traits. In 1992, we opened our doors as a commercial design firm servicing East Tennessee. My interest in history created Urban Redevelopment Alliance (URA) a company I founded in in the late 90’s, developing and renovating over $10M of the historic building stock in downtown Johnson City over the ensuing decade. Opening a Vision Group office in Asheville in 2000, we have occupied three office locations here, two of which have been historic. Currently, we reside in the Grove Arcade building a cornerstone of history in Asheville.
The Grove Arcade was built by EW Grove (Grove Park Inn Developer) and is the largest building in downtown Asheville at 269,000sf. This is larger than the high-rise BB&T building – soon to open as a Kimpton Hotel, The Arras. The Grove Arcade was the center of commercial and social life when it opened in 1929 until 1942 when the federal government took it over. As part of the war effort, the government gave 78 shops and 127 offices less than two weeks’ notice in 1942 to vacate and the building remained in the hands of the government for the next seven decades! After extensive renovations in 2002 The Grove Arcade is a market hub once again with restaurants, craft, and specialty shops.
I live and work in the Grove which is now home on the upper floors to a mix of offices and apartments. The mix of apartment tenants ranges from young professionals to retired residents with the latter being in the majority. We often refer to the Grove as a NORC – a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. It is easy to see why the NORC classification fits, as the building offers maintenance at the touch of a button, 24-hour security, an underground parking garage and a miniature fresh market on the first floor. The main floor is anchored and in close proximity to dozens of restaurants, cafes, and shops gratifying to the aging boomer and elder residents living here. In the ten years, we have been at the Grove, we have witnessed several folks in their nineties enjoy the quality of life offered in this urban hub.
We are working with a developer currently that is designing a three-story 44-unit Independent Living facility with a central atrium, modeled after the European model of living in small space and aging in place with services catered to the home. As my design team ideates on the design of this project we only have to walk out our front door and look up at the atrium skylight and down at the bustling first floor to insert ourselves into a future model of aging that will move from concept to construction very soon and begin creating a history of it’s own.