History: The Old City Water Works

Re-usable Resources

The buildings at 223 Crowell Drive, NW have served the City of Concord for nearly a century. Originally home to the City Water Works in the 1920s, which was the source of water for the young Fire Department, the site later housed the Board of Light and Water. Eventually, the buildings became the City's Electrical and Water Operations facility. Then, Concord built a new Operations Center and moved most operations there.  By the late 1990s, all of the buildings were sitting vacant.

In 2003, Concord City Council approved a Center City Plan, which was developed to enhance and strengthen neighborhoods within Center City. Gibson Village, located adjacent to Concord's Historic District and less than a half mile from downtown, was included in this plan.

The Gibson Village plan contained two main strategies:  

1- Implement a greenway to connect the neighborhood to downtown, and

2- Convert the former Electric Operations facility into an artisan village with space for community events.  

The Village Greenway, completed in August 2007, originates at Kerr Street on-site and connects pedestrians to downtown. Plans for renovation of the dilapidated buildings of the former Electric Operations facility began to take shape in 2008.


Artists as Catalysts

As a strategy to spur community development within Gibson Village, the City made plans to redevelop the site and offer studios to artists at affordable rates. With creative energy and activity in new supply within the community, the studios have become a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization.

On April 8, 2010 the site at 223 Crowell Drive, NW was officially named "ClearWater Artist Studios at Gibson Village." The site consists of 38,000 square feet of building space. Renovated buildings encourage both new and established artists to call Gibson Village home.

In September 2011, ClearWater artists began moving into the WaterWorks Building and phase one of the Operations Building. Phase two of the Operations Building was completed in January 2013. Together, the WaterWorks Building and the first two phases of the Operations Building contain 13 studios and a 2,200 square foot gallery.


Capital Development/ Renovations

Operations, WaterWorks, and ClearWell Buildings: Together, these are the ClearWater Artist Studios.

Renovations to the WaterWorks Building (152 Kerr Street) and phase one of the Operations Building (223 Crowell Drive NW), including 12 studios and a 2,200 square foot gallery, were completed in Fall 2011. Phase two of the Operations Building, a 1,683 square foot studio that is home to the Southern Piedmont Woodturners Association, was completed in January 2013.  Each studio and common space maintains a unique industrial quality, reminiscent of the site's former uses. Wear and tear on the original concrete floors is still visible, but refined with a clear sealer. Ceilings in most studios are open to black exposed duct work and metal rafters. Over 2015-16 the old truck bay was improved to create a renovated community market space complete with lighting, a new floor, and bird-repelling netting.

Phase three of the Operations Building started in April 2017 to create a Multi-Purpose Room on the lower level, opening out to the Green via a covered patio.  Estimated completion on this space is October 2017.  This room includes a kitchen and can be used for event rentals, classes, general gathering, special events, etc.

Environmental sustainability is a priority for all renovations at ClearWater. Materials used include energy efficient windows, doors, insulation, restroom fixtures, and HVAC systems.

Future Plans

Renovations will continue at a steady pace until all phases are complete. Exterior site improvements began in 2012 and will continue as funding is available. The improvements include resurfacing of hardscape, implementing green space wherever possible to soften and cool the site,  implementing more signage for programming awareness, introducing pedestrian engagement opportunities, etc.  In addition, the site master plan calls for a café, eventually, where the new Multi-Purpose room is being built; and the large open green space adjacent to the WaterWorks Building can be used for recreation and community events.

Future phases will include up to thirty additional studios. Phase four of the Operations Building, will add dedicated classrooms/ meeting spaces, a soundproofed studio, and more artist studio space to the lower level of the building. The ClearWell Building will also be renovated (anticipating metalworking & large-scale sculpture studios), and the café, community market, performance space, and more gallery space will eventually accompany these studios.  There are plans for an entire Pottery Center in the building that flanks Kerr St. next to the Market space, including outfitted class spaces for work on wheels, drying and glazing spaces and a kiln room.

Renovations are anticipated to be completed by the end of 2021, depending on HUD funding and other potential grants and fundraising campaigns.  If you'd like to help with these efforts, see the Get Involved page and/or contact the Manager.



ClearWater Artist Studios is owned and managed by the City of Concord, NC, anchored in the Planning & Neighborhood Development Department.  Planning staff cooperate to help oversee general maintenance, repairs and renovations. Leasing studios to new Artist Tenants and general oversight of the facility is undertaken by one Planning staff person who is the dedicated Manager of ClearWater, with an office on the premises. The Manager also handles all general promotions, communications & outreach; management of leases; development of guidelines and policy documents; event rentals and monitoring of private events; grant applications; arts programming & classes; exhibitions in the Gallery; and coordinating of events produced by ClearWater Artist Studios. 

Tenant Artists are considered independent business proprietors, and become de-facto members of the ClearWater Artists Coalition, a separate, non-profit collective which also includes Affiliate Members (any member not leasing studios). Their charge is to help promote the arts, artistic learning, and cultural activities through creating access to artworks, arts activities and events at ClearWater Artist Studios.  The Tenant Artists and Manager work together to help make ClearWater Artist Studios a part of the vitalization of the Gibson Village Neighborhood community, the larger arts community, and the City of Concord.

Our Team


Sarah Gay is Manager of ClearWater Artist Studios. First hired part-time (late 2013), now full-time, she works in concert with her colleagues toward realization of the vision of ClearWater.  These efforts include and involve the resident artists of ClearWater; co-workers in the City of Concord's Planning & Neighborhood Development Department and other personnel; the surrounding Gibson Village Neighborhood; and the larger community. 

Sarah grew up immersed in the arts, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She graduated the University of Michigan’s Residential College with a Sculpture concentration, then moved to Colorado to pursue the craft of bronze sculpture and to be in the mountains. She found a career in Public Art Administration, overseeing projects and programs for three different cities (Denver, CO; Jacksonville, FL; & Charlotte, NC). Between them, she oversaw the implementation of over 55 large-scale, permanent public art installations; and co-organized & hosted a statewide, annual conference of public art administrators. A layoff, in the wake of the U.S. Economic Crash (early 2009), precipitated her move to study acting for film & TV. She spent the next 5 years on this (and also managed the Film Actors' Studio of Charlotte).  After an injury kept her out of work for a year, she came to ClearWater Artist Studios.

ClearWater Artist Studios brings together Sarah's passions for art, the empowerment of artists, and positive community development. In this role, she is coordinating innovative, multi-genre art events; curating exhibitions in our Gallery; helping design future build-outs of the remaining buildings, and facilitating event rentals.  She provides a leadership assistance role to the ClearWater Artists' Coalition.  Soon she hopes to be bringing public art exhibits to the campus, and implementing other projects that will energize and involve the community.  She envisions ClearWater Artist Studios as a place bringing creative thinkers and makers of all stripes into engagement with each other in all kinds of ways.  In turn, these encounters lead to potential new creations, experiences and relationships that strengthen all involved.

Sarah can be reached at 704-784-9535 or clearwatermgr@gmail.com.  Office hours are variable depending on events.



Other Key Team Members, Planning Department:

Mary Carr is Community Development Manager in the Planning & Neighborhood Development Department of the City of Concord.  She serves as Supervisor to the rest of the Community Development team and is our emergency contact; Office 704-920-5142 or carrm@concordnc.gov.

Note: Previously LeDerick Blackburn was in this position; if you’re trying to reach him he is now Assistant City Manager and can be found on the City’s Staff Leadership Team Chart.

Alicia Broadway is a Planner in the Planning & Neighborhood Development Department and also helps with some logistical and management functions.  If necessary she may be reached at 704.920.5137 or broadwaya@concordnc.gov.


Other Planning Department, Finance Department and other City staff assist with oversight of contractors and repairs, policy development, budget management and tracking, public relations, logistical help for internet and other technical services, and some buildings and grounds services.  We are grateful to be part of such a team; and grateful that the City of Concord found it appropriate to grant our buildings a new era of usefulness, and to recognize the power of art to lend vital energy to a place-making effort in one of its oldest neighborhoods.