Preservationists are urging an historic clock tower in the Enka community of southwestern Asheville be saved.
The clock tower was part of a building that belonged to American Enka Company. The Dutch-owned manufacturer of materials like rayon and paper products was a critical employer in the region during the Great Depression.
Preservation Society of Asheville Executive Director Jessie Landl says at its peak, the plant employed about 2,500 workers.
“It was standing room only, and it was a lot of folks who had either worked there themselves or had family members that worked there, so it was a big part of the community for a really long time," Landl said. "It's a beautiful structure, but it's also got a lot of cultural and historical significance to the people that live in that community.”
But now, nearly a century later, a new company that has yet to be made public has plans to move in. Greensboro-based Samet Corp. is planning to build a 130,000-square-foot distribution center. It’s the same company that built the recently-opened Amazon distribution hub in nearby Mills River.
The company’s initial proposal included demolishing the town’s beloved clocktower and replacing it with a parking lot. But Landl says concerns from Enka residents put the clock tower back on the map -- if the developer deems it “structurally sound.”
“My hope is that’s their true intention, but of course there's that concern that they may use the issue of its structural soundness to get rid of the clock tower," Landl said.
The clock tower is just one example of several structures in the region that face demolition, as more companies seek to locate in the Asheville area and developers seek to increase the city’s housing stock. She’s asking neighbors to be eyes and ears for preserving their communities, not just for the sake of architecture -- but also for saving the area’s culture and history.
The proposal is slated for discussion at the city's upcoming Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on Dec. 2, where public comment will be heard.