Blog :: 04-2007

Asheville Ranked #1 "100 Top Places To Live"

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4/24/2007 - Asheville Ranked #1 "100 Top Places To Live"
by ACT

When it comes to education, crime rates, employment and housing, Asheville is the No. 1 place in America to live, an online ranking showed.

Relocate-America.com last week released its annual Americas Top 100 Places to Live list. Asheville beat other top 10 communities, including Traverse City, Mich.; Ithaca, N.Y.; Chicago and Cary.

Its not surprising, said Marla Tambellini, assistant vice president of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. I think that one of the things thats compelling about Asheville is that its a very vibrant city. The people are very warm and friendly here. Its located in a great place in the South thats surrounded by mountains but not too far from the beach and has a year-round temperate climate.

To make the list, a community must be nominated. Relocate-America.coms editorial team reviews the nominations, which often include references to a communitys beauty, schools, economic health and environmental friendliness.

Towns are then ranked based on several factors, including crime rates, employment and housing data, said Steve Nickerson, president and chief executive officer of Michigan-based HomeRoute, which owns Relocate-America.com.

Nickerson said more than 2,000 cities were nominated this year. The list has been published since 1998 and is a service for consumers looking to relocate, he said.

We look at all cities and towns based on not because theyre big or small or because they are a college town, we look at everything equally, Nickerson said. Our main criterion that we look at is passion for the community.

Other North Carolina cities that made this years list include Beaufort, Blowing Rock, Greenville and Wilmington.

Relocate-America.com ranked Asheville the fifth best place to live in 2004 and No. 9 in 2005, Nickerson said. Asheville fell out of the top 10 last year, but was still among the top the top 100 cities, Nickerson said.

Ashevilles distinction as the best place to live in America for 2007 is the latest of the citys many accolades and recognitions.

For example, Frommers named Asheville as one of 12 top travel destinations for 2007; it was one of the 50 best places to live in the Singles Scene category by Mens Journal last year; and was ranked 24th in Forbes annual list of Best Places for Business and Careers in 2006.

ACT- 04/23/07

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23-story building proposed for downtown Asheville

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4/20/2007 - 23-story building proposed for downtown Asheville
by ACT

ASHEVILLE A group of investors proposes to build a 23-story building containing a luxury boutique hotel and residential condominiums on Biltmore Avenue less than two blocks south of Pack Square.

The Ellington would be at 35 Biltmore Ave., just north of Doc Cheys restaurant, and would contain 125 hotel rooms and 52 residential condominiums. A group of investors called Ellington Partners has presented a proposal for the structure to the city Downtown Commission for informal review and says construction would begin in 2008.

The project would ultimately require City Council approval and may be controversial because of its height.

The building would have more stories than the BB&T Building, but the tops of the two buildings would be roughly equal in elevation because The Ellington site is lower than where the BB&T sits, said Karen Tessier, a spokeswoman for the project.

It appears on the skyline at about the same height, she said.

Downtowns growing popularity has sparked significant developer interest in the central business district, but a number of taller buildings that have been proposed downtown over the past three years have yet to be built and it is possible that some never will.

Grove Park Inn involved

Ellington Partners includes the Grove Park Inn, which would operate the hotel portion of the building and give guests access to the inns facilities in North Asheville, and McManus Development, a local firm headed by one of the owners of Pack Plaza, the office buildings to the south and southwest of Pack Square.

Others are E2M, a real estate investment fund based in Dallas, and The Beck Group, a real estate development firm based in Atlanta and Dallas. Beck is the developer for the project and Three Architecture of Dallas is the architect.

The Ellington is named for Douglas Ellington, the architect who designed some of Ashevilles most notable buildings during the first part of the 20th century, including City Hall, First Baptist Church, the S&W Cafeteria and Asheville High School.

Tessier said the building would be in a style she called neo-Deco but said a final design has not been decided. She declined to release any preliminary renderings.

The building would be located on an L-shaped half-acre that includes an empty lot just north of Doc Cheys, an empty building at 31 Biltmore Ave. that would be torn down and adjoining parking lots that front on South Lexington Avenue.

The front would be set back from the edge of the sidewalk on Biltmore Avenue and the building would get slimmer as it gets taller, meaning its bulk would be less imposing than the BB&T, Tessier said.

Ellington Partners plans to donate a small percentage of real estate sales for the project to a nonprofit fund to support affordable housing in the Asheville area. The hotel would be designed with a number of environmentally friendly features, Tessier said.

The hotel would bring even more activity to already-bustling Biltmore Avenue, and partners say it would employ about 100 people.

Neighbors weigh in

Two nearby merchants said the hotel would be good for business but have mixed feelings about such a large structure.

The hotel would be a little big, said John Cram, owner of Blue Spiral 1 art gallery and the Fine Arts Theatre, but will probably have panache, style.

Having 125 hotel rooms across the street would be great for Barleys Taproom & Pizzeria, co-owner Doug Beatty said. But he worries that Asheville is turning more and more into what people are moving away from as development continues at a rapid pace.

Stephanie Monson, staffer to the Downtown Commission, said members had generally positive comments at a meeting last week on the way architects handled the height and massing of the building but had concerns about a vehicle entrance for the hotel on Biltmore Avenue.

Cars would be able to drive into the building from Biltmore and exit onto Aston Street. Four levels of parking accessible from Lexington Avenue would be located underneath.

Architects are expected to return with more definite plans for a formal review by the commission in the next 30 to 60 days, Tessier and Monson said.

City rules dont require approval for the project to proceed, but opposition by the commission would be a significant liability for the project when it comes time for City Council to consider it.

by Mark Barrett, MBARRETT@CITIZEN-TIMES.COM published April 20, 2007 12:15 am

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Asheville, N.C., offers lively culture, gorgeous landscapes, outdoor fun

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4/19/2007 - Asheville, N.C., offers lively culture, gorgeous landscapes, outdoor fun
by MSNBC

Blue Ridge Beauty, Asheville, NC  You cant go home again, Thomas Wolfe famously wrote in his lyrical, dishy novel Look Homeward Angel about his hometown of Asheville. But he did living out his last years in North Carolina even though some of the gossip revealed in his book (which was banned by the Asheville library for years) made him persona non grata among many of his old friends there. But heck, its not hard to understand why he returned. Picturesque (with those majestic mountains cutting into the horizon) and filled with eccentric, counter-culture characters, in a day youll get an inkling why Wolfe and dozens of other artists, would-be artists and people who like to hang with artsy types havent been able to resist the pull of this Blue Ridge beaut.

8 a.m. - 9 a.m.: Speaking of artsy, eccentric types, youll find many of them getting their kitsch fix first thing at Eaties Cereal Bar. The name says it all: you come here to munch on your choice of 25 different cereals, from the pure sugar pellets of Count Chocula and Lucky Charms, to a selection of multi-grain, multi-nutrient organic cereals and oatmeals. Local art covers the buttercup yellow walls, and the soundtrack often as not is slurps and giggles.

9 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Ascend into the upper class briefly with a visit to the Vanderbuilts illustrious Biltmore Estate. No expense was spared to make it the most innovative, high-style mansion in the U.S. when it was built in the 1890s (and it still holds the title of largest private residence in the U.S.) Renowned architect Richard Morris Hunt did the design; the founder of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted (of Central Park in New York City fame) oversaw the grounds; and the man himself, original owner George Washington Vanderbuilt, spent years combing the globe for magnificent stuff to fill the mansions 250 rooms. During his super-sized shopping spree, he purchased some of Edisons first lightbulbs, masterworks by Renior, Sargent and Whistler, 16th century Flemish tapestries, Chippendale furniture, priceless oriental carpets and 50,000 other objects. If you find you cant get your fill in just one day (a common occurrence), have your ticket stamped to come back the next day for $10.

Morning alternative
The Biltmore Estate is the big cheese among the citys attractions, but if youve already seen it, explore Central Asheville instead. Its a charmingly odd city which seems to change its outfit every block or so, thanks to the stupefying hodgepodge of architectural styles on display. There are arts-and-crafts-inspired homes, with expansive porches and drastically sloping roofs; Victorian townhouses; Neo-Tudor and Gothic Revival buildings complete with gargoyles; and an abundance of curvaceous, downright sexy Art Deco buildings. You can pick up a self-guided audio tour at the Asheville Art Museum to help you identify the homes and styles.

In the course of your wanderings, be sure to stop by the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, which includes the newly restored boarding house owned by Wolfes mother (it was burned by an arsonist, but has been repaired and reopened to the public); Malaprops Bookstore, a hub of intellectual life in the city and a great place to pick up an iced chai or get into a life-changing philosophical argument (its the only bookstore I know of that devotes one entire section to books banned elsewhere); and the impressive Romanesque and Gothic revival churches on Church Street.

1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.: It's time to load up on carbs and cholesterol! Head to the Tupelo Honey Café for a lunch of updated, deep South classics, like shrimp and grits (here with goat cheese), collard greens made chic with soy sauce and toasted garlic, or crunchy fried chicken coated with crushed nuts. Breakfast is on the menu all day long, too, for those in need of a comfort food fix (or you can just go for Elvis favorite: a peanut butter, banana and mayo sandwich hey, youve crossed the Mason-Dixon line, after all).

2:30 - 6 p.m.: Enjoy a quick spin on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are few drives that are as sublime, stately and gosh-darn gorgeous, with its ever changing panoram a of split-rail fences, vintage farmhouses, sun speckled woods and dusky cerulean mountains soaring up into the clouds. Break up your journey to nowhere with a stop at the Folk Art Center, at milepost 382, a non-profit organization selling and displaying Appalachian crafts.

Afternoon alternative
Go shopping. It certainly takes on a highbrow tone here, thanks to the historic, beautifully preserved enclaves devoted to this pursuit. You have a choice of bleeding your credit card dry at either the Biltmore Village the community that George Washington Vanderbuilt constructed as a baronial extension of the Biltmore Estate (it offers up about 25 stores, none of which are the usual yawn-inducing chains) or at The Grove Arcade Public Market. The latter has a Pikes Market-vibe (for those of you familiar with Seattle) and the setting is the fully refurbished, former roaring-20s arcade that was the citys first indoor shopping arcade. Youll find 50 stores here.

6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. : Go all out with a meal where F. Scott Fitzgerald once feasted Horizons Restaurant, in the Grove Park Inn Resort. Continental cuisine, gracious, if formal, service and a stately setting this is where you go to propose, to celebrate a promotion, or perhaps just to cap off a perfect day in Asheville.

8:30 p.m. - on : You never know what sort of nightlife awaits in Asheville. Your evenings entertainment could consist of catching a drumming circle, political protest, concert or free film series in Pritchard Park. Or perhaps it will be a poetry reading or author talk at Malaprops Bookstore (see above). Somewhere in town theres likely to be music, with great mountain musicians often taking the stage at the Jack of the Woods Pub at the Gray Eagle Tavern. Just pull aside one of the fleece-and-flannel clad hipsters who live here and ask whats most interesting that evening (or if youre shy, pick up a copy of the local paper for listings).

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Another Asheville Resturant Row!

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4/14/2007 - Another Asheville Resturant Row!
by ACT

.ASHEVILLE - The menu options range from a jumbo hot dog with chili to Thai rice noodles to Mexican-style lamb. Not at one restaurant, but at the varied row of eateries that have blossomed along the Page Avenue side of Asheville's Grove Arcade.

"My choices are all here," said West Asheville's Wes Burke, 34, after enjoying a breakfast plate of scrambled eggs with cilantro, plantains and av0cado sauce at Latin-themed Chorizo. "I like the opportunity to pick and choose. I don't have to drive anywhere."

Burke has also dined at Modesto, Thai Basil and Cats and Dawgs, which join Carmel's, True Confections and Sante wine bar to create a burgeoning restaurant row along a picturesque downtown block.

"It's the place to be," said Asheville restaurateur Hector Diaz, who opened Chorizo about two weeks ago, after launching Italian-flavored Modesto next door last fall.

The downtown location, historic setting and outdoor ambience are all part of the Grove Arcade's appeal, Diaz said. "This is the Park Avenue of Asheville," he said. "I see a future here."

A stroll along Page Avenue offers a culinary tour of the United States, Latin America, Italy and Thailand, with coffee and wine bars complementing the full-service eateries.

Restaurant owners said having plenty of culinary company benefits the whole group.

"We feel that the more restaurants that open up, it only helps all of us," said Carole Bowers, co-owner and executive chef of Carmel's Restaurant and Bar, which opened in December. "It becomes a destination."

'Festival every weekend'

The emergence of restaurants along Page Avenue happened by demand more than design, said Ruth Summers, executive director of the Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation.

The ornate building reopened as an office, residential and retail facility in November 2002 after extensive renovations that followed decades of use as a federal office building.

With recent apartment lease signings, the building is now sold out of residential and business space, Summers said.

"It was very lonely for a while," noted True Confections owner Carole Miller, who opened her eatery back in January 2003 before her Page Avenue neighbors.

The rest of the arcade includes more culinary attractions, from fresh produce to frozen custard to specialty cheeses.

The cluster of restaurants is also drawing more locals to the arcade, traditionally a popular spot with visitors. Locals and tourists alike are also drawn by the availability of outdoor tables, which gives the arcade a metropolitan vibe.

"People come to Asheville for the weather," Bowers said. "It's a great place to come and sit and watch Asheville go by."

To celebrate the season, Carmel's will begin offering live music later this month on Fridays and Saturdays through the summer.

"It will be a festival every weekend," she said.

by By Michael Flynn , MLFLYNN@CITIZEN-TIMES.COM published April 18, 2007 12:15 am

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Art, crafts, one monumental 'house' set Asheville, N.C., apart

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4/14/2007 - Art, crafts, one monumental 'house' set Asheville, N.C., apart
by St. Louis Dispatch

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Cornelius Vanderbilt, known as "the commodore" because of his investments in shipping and railroads, made $100 million before he died in 1877.

In 10 years his son, William Henry, doubled the family fortune.

His son, George W., inherited that $200 million, which in today's dollars would be a hefty $96 billion.

All that information is in the audio tour of the baronial Biltmore Estate and explains why young George could afford to devote his life to building the estate's 250-room French Renaissance chateau and filling it with art and furniture from around the world.

When it opened in 1895, Biltmore House was the country's largest private residence, with 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms, at a time when most people used an outhouse. The home is still the nation's largest, but no one lives there now. The curious are welcome to tour for $38 a ticket, and a million or so do each year, which helps pay the bills.

William Cecil Jr., the family member now running the place, has a goal. He says in the audio, "If George Vanderbilt came back tomorrow and asked for the keys to the house, we're sure he'd be very happy with how we've maintained Biltmore while he was gone."

George Vanderbilt began building the Biltmore Estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, N.C., in 1889. He was then a 27-year-old bachelor.

The cool, clean mountain air of western North Carolina was thought to have healing qualities, and Asheville attracted more than billionaires. Sufferers of tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments flocked to the region after the railroad arrived in 1880.

Art and Crafts

Asheville is enjoying a resurgence today. Locals, in this town of 69,000 people, have pet names for two groups of new arrivals who are boosting real estate prices and driving the spread of galleries and craft shops in recycled buildings of the historic district.

"Halfbacks" are transplanted Northerners leaving the congestion of South Florida to settle in the moderate climate of Asheville, halfway back to their roots. "Trustafarians" are the young artists in dreadlocks found on the park benches and in the coffee houses and brew pubs. Most are struggling in Asheville's crowded art scene, but they're not quite starving, thanks to parental support.

This corner of the Appalachian Mountains always has been a hotbed for arts and crafts, with potters, quilters and woodworkers in abundance. There are at least three dozen galleries in downtown Asheville. The Folk Art Center, which features the work of the more than 900 members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, is at Milepost 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, 15 minutes outside of town.

While the lively arts-and-crafts scene is a boon to buyers and browsers, it's something of a bane to the region's overflow of artists. A front-page story that ran in the Asheville Citizen-Times during my four-day stay carried this headline: "More artists than galleries." It quoted several gallery owners as saying they no longer welcomed "walk-ins" carrying their portfolios.

Getting displayed in the Folk Art Center is even harder. Spokeswoman Ada Dudenhoffer said more than 100 artists from nine states applied last year. A jury viewed their slides, then invited 30 to bring in their work for inspection.

"Eight were accepted," she said. "They're a pretty tough crowd."

You can't stay in the Biltmore House, but there was room at the inn. The Inn on Biltmore Estate opened in 2001 with 213 rooms for guests.

The inn has a gourmet restaurant that offers formal dining. I strolled down the pathway through the vineyard to the Biltmore Estate Winery below, where the casual Bistro restaurant was found.

Biltmore Estate is an experience for all seasons. The Azalea Garden contains one of the country's largest selections of native azaleas, 15 acres that glow each spring. By summer, the 250 acres of gardens are in their full glory, and the surrounding hills add to the color show in autumn. Beginning in November, the chateau is decorated for Christmas and open for candlelight tours.

River Arts District

All those Asheville artists, starving and otherwise, need studio space, and a lot of them are setting up shop in the old warehouses along the riverfront in a burgeoning area known as the River Arts District. Some of the studios are open to visitors daily, some by appointment only. Most are open to the public during scheduled "studio strolls," which are advertised at www.riverartsdistrict.com.

"People can go into the buildings and walk around," said Bar bara Lepak Perez, a sculptor and president of the district. "Knock on a door if you hear a radio."

I also saw some of nature's art at Chimney Rock Park at the end of a 25-mile drive through twisting Hickory Nut Gorge. The park's main feature is a towering rock spire, which was reached by a 26-story ride inside an elevator shaft blasted into the mountainside.

10:00 PM PDT on Saturday, April 14, 2007 By TOM UHLENBROCK
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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ew Hotel Possible in Downtown Asheville

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4/4/2007 - New Hotel Possible in Downtown Asheville
by ACT

ASHEVILLE Developers are eyeing downtown property that was formerly home to the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce as a possible site for a 10-story hotel and condominium building.

The city Technical Review Committee is scheduled to conduct a preliminary review today of a proposal to put a Hotel Indigo boutique hotel on property between Haywood Street and Interstate 240 just east of Montford Avenue.

"Downtown hotel considered" by Mark Barrett, Asheville Citizen Times

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rish Pub Coming To West Asheville

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4/2/2007 - Irish Pub Coming To West Asheville
by ACT

 WEST ASHEVILLE Locals who enjoy the vibe of an old-school Irish Pub can soon welcome Tollivers Crossing to the neighborhood.

Western North Carolina native Chuck Brown is leaving his post at beer and wine supplier Skyland Distributing Co. to open up the pub in the former home of Ideal Market Café at 733 Haywood Road.

Im going to try to make it as traditional as possible, he said. I want it to be a neighborhood pub. Brown, 30, is teaming up with Landon Phillips of Boone for the venture, which is slated to open in mid May after renovations. The building was damaged in a kitchen fire about a year ago.

A Candler resident, Brown said West Ashevilles local feel provides the right backdrop. West Asheville has got such a unique draw, he said. Its like downtown used to be.

Tollivers Crossing will feature fish and chips, bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes), and other pub specialties, along with an ample selection of Irish and British beers, plus local brews.

The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, and seat about 80 people inside and 30 on an outdoor deck. The pubs motto will be pouring friendship one pint at a time.

Running a pub is a longtime dream, said Brown, who has given the establishment a family name. The initial business plan was sketched out a table napkin and the financing and real estate for the project came together quickly.

When something like this falls all together, it was meant to be, he said.

 

Asheville Citizen Times

by Michael Flynn

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