Column: The sky is the limit

Apr. 26, 2014 @ 10:30 AM

First, let’s get the crazy out of the way: What would be great is if someone would build a six-story apartment building downtown with a rooftop-patio restaurant.

That’s not going to happen, but if you could see the view that place would have, you wouldn’t think the rooftop restaurant part of that idea was crazy.

Everyone who was at “A Rooftop Kentucky Sunset” Thursday evening, a Caldwell Arts Council event on the rooftop patio of the building occupied at street level by 1841 Café, was blown away by the view. Caldwell County natives, Hickory residents, relative newcomers – everyone – remarked on it.

The building is three stories high above Main Street (four above Church), putting the patio high enough to see over almost every building (City Hall was in the way) and over the tops of the first set of hills.

Lenoir is strikingly pretty.

From that height, downtown’s early 20th-century buildings form a small, quaint urban patch in a larger quilt made up mainly of trees, houses and churches on rolling hills, with bigger, bluer hills in the distance.

The perfect weather – low 70s, clear sky, a soft, dry breeze – surely helped, but what we saw was scenery you could sell. I moved here from Richmond, which has more early 20th-century buildings that you can shake a stick at but has none of that scenery (sure, it has a river, but almost none of the buildings are near the river, and there are no big hills in sight) and yet people there flock to any place that has a view. A Richmond business owner would commit murder for a view like this.

The patio we were on Thursday is too small for much commercial use. Maybe it could hold small parties and catered events.

What it mostly seems good for is inspiring. Looking out, you couldn’t help but wonder, “What if?” What if only there were someplace bigger way up high?

It could happen. It’s not likely someone will use one of downtown’s lots to build something new and high. But there are other rooftops. As I mentioned, there’s at least one that's higher.

Maybe Lenoir should look into leasing out the roof of City Hall for a restaurant. It could give the city's budget a whole new revenue stream.