New life is coming to the 42-acre site in the heart of Swannanoa that was once home to the Beacon Blanket mill. After years of sitting vacant, the property has been sold to Symmetry Financial Group, an insurance marketing company based in Swannanoa. One of the owners of Symmetry (and also a co-owner of Native Kitchen and Social Pub) is Swannanoa native and Owen High graduate, Casey Watkins. Plans for the property include a new 30,000 square-foot headquarters for Symmetry, as well as future retail, commercial and recreational uses that will help spur community redevelopment and growth.
Symmetry’s purchase of the property helps clear the way for a proposed 118,000 square foot indoor sports complex that would occupy 15 acres on the site, and include multiple courts for basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, pickleball, and other sports. The sports venue is expected to attract large tournaments on the weekends, but would be open to the public at other times. If all the necessary financing and approvals can be secured, construction could begin as early as 2020.
In an article in the Black Mountain News following the announcement of the land purchase, Watkins talked about the importance of the Beacon mill site to the future of Swannanoa. “It was where the town was; that was Swannanoa,” Watkins said. “When you turned up Whitson Avenue . . . that’s where it was all happening. That’s going to be an important piece of the puzzle when we think about the future of Swannanoa and its growth.” Watson went on to say that the goal in purchasing the land “was to be in a position to make sure it stays on the right track.”
At its peak, the Beacon Blanket mill employed thousands of people, and was the center of life in the Swannanoa community. The mill opened its doors in 1925 and closed for good in 2002, after a series of ownership changes and reductions in workforce. In 2003, an arsonist started a fire that burned the mill to the ground. The property has been vacant ever since, but at long last there’s new hope that something positive will rise from the ashes. In the Black Mountain News article, Watson said that “if we can be even in a small way part of rejuvenating this area, we’re really excited about that.”