Blog :: 05-2009

The Best Neighborhoods in America: Southeast

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5/27/2009 - The Best Neighborhoods in America: Southeast
by Britta Waller

The Best Neighborhoods in America: Southeast

Wed, May 27, 2009

The Eccentric Throwback

WEST ASHEVILLE/ ASHEVILLE, NC

There are some residents of Asheville who arent just wary of suburban sprawl and unchecked development; theyre downright pathological about it. And for this very vocal slice of the population, the downtown revival, via a slick new Grove Arcade and pedestrian mall, was a worrying step forward. So they fled to West Asheville, set up a perimeter, and dug in. Brandon Mise, owner of custom letterpress Blue Barnhouse, pointedly refuses to recommend his favorite hiking trails to nonlocals, and no one seems all that ashamed of the vandals who did nearly a million dollars worth of damage to an under-construction Wal-Mart back in 2004.

With a population of slightly more than 70,000, growth in this city cradled by the Blue Ridge Mountains is hardly careening out of control, and it still retains the rough edges and cool factor its known for, but downtowns reinvention cost it some character. After being priced out of the hundred-year-old homes encircling downtown in the 1990s, a few pioneering young professionals decided to cross the French Broad River and take this formerly run-down part of town from dangerous to desirable. And they had a unique vision: Even after nearly two decades of growth, West Asheville is still basically what downtown Asheville was like a decade ago, when it had four good restaurants instead of 12, and old-school drugstores and paint-chipped storefronts sat alongside clothing boutiques. Keeping it funky was a priority for a population young enough to not yet care about saving for retirement.

Just like downtown itself, there are side streets of attractive bungalows with deep front porches, and a single commercial strip, Haywood Road, where all the basics are within walking or cycling distance. Spots that would be considered unique and progressive in most cities of this size are a given in West Asheville, with its anchors being the Haywood Road Market health food co-op on the west end and the Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism and its al fresco front-yard yoga studio on the east. Between the two, equip yourself for your first kayak lessons at Second Gear, where the French Broad stink is infused in the spray skirts. Or go for a tune-up at Pro Bikes, which caters to commuters as well as fat-tire freaks. (Asheville is your base of operations for camping in the Pisgah National Forest, whitewater weekends in Hot Springs or Bryson City, and outdoor music at the biannual Lake Eden Arts Festival just east in Black Mountain.) And even though this is the Bible Belt, most West Ashevillians worship at the West End Bakery on Sunday mornings, before hitting the Lucky Otter for lunch.

No one expects to find everything he needs in West Asheville the coffee shop is closed on weekends (no joke), and aside from funky-smelling thrift stores, forget shopping for clothes but the locals have spoken: If convenience follows progress, theyre having none of it.

- Britta Waller

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Asheville ties with Portland, Ore. as America's top beer cities

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5/12/2009 - Asheville ties with Portland, Ore. as America's top beer cities
by Tony Kiss, Asheville Citizen Times

Asheville and Portland, Ore., have tied as Americas number one beer cities in a just-completed national online poll.

More than 16,000 voters from 46 countries cast ballots in the online poll conducted by the respected beer writer Charlie Papazian, at the www.examiner.com Web site. Now I have to get myself to Asheville for a first time visit," Papazian wrote on Friday.

The competition began March 18 and ended Thursday and turned into a fierce back-and-forth competition between Portland (estimated population of 575,000 and around 28 breweries) Asheville (72,000, six breweries, two more under construction and one in nearby Black Mountain).

In the end, Papazian chose to proclaim both Asheville and Portland as Beer City USA. Philadelphia came in third, and many other bigger cities with acclaimed brewing scenes (such as San Diego) barely made a mark.

Any time that Asheville and Portland can be mentioned in the same breath is a step in the right direction, said Mike Rangel, president of Asheville Brewing Co., and head of the Asheville Brewers Alliance. Portland is the big brother that we strive to be.

 

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