Blog :: 03-2007

Asheville is Hotbed for Arts and Crafts



3/31/2007 - Asheville is Hotbed for Arts and Crafts

Asheville, North Carolina is a Hotbed for Arts and Crafts 

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.

And that's before there were income taxes.

All that information is in the audio tour of the baronial Biltmore Estate and explains why young George could afford to walk away from the stuffy world of industry 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 largest in America, although no one lives there. The curious are welcome to tour for $38 a ticket, and a million or so do each year, which helps pay the bills.

Vanderbilt, who began the project in 1889 when he was a 27-year-old bachelor, originally purchased some 125,000 acres, and that has shrunk to a mere 8,000 today. But the forests and gardens created by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York's Central Park, are intact, complementing the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the French Broad River flowing through.

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. Health retreats were set up to treat the patients. Resorts and luxury inns were built to house the healthy.

Edwin Wiley Grove, owner of a pharmaceutical company that made Bromo-Quinine, came in 1900 and purchased a large tract of land on Sunset Mountain to build a magnificent lodge, using native uncut boulders. The Grove Park Inn is still magnificent, with wings added in 1958 and 1963, and a spa created in 2001.

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. Even the old Woolworth's is divided into artists' booths.

"Halfbacks" are transplanted Northerners leaving the congestion of South Florida and re-settling in the moderate climate of Asheville, halfway back to their roots. "Trustafarians" are the dread-locked droves of young artists 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 a little 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 prestigious 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 had this headline, "More artists than galleries," and 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 lavishly appointed rooms of the Biltmore House, but there was room at the inn.

The Inn on Biltmore Estate opened in 2001 with 213 rooms for guests. Mine was lavish enough, and had a window that looked out over the wooded hills to the estate house perched on a ridge.

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 Bistro restaurant was casual. Thanks to the throngs that tour the estate each year, the winery is said to be the most visited in the country with 600,000 guests. There are several ways to see the entire estate - drive the winding roads, hike the trails, bike the paths, ri de on horseback or carriage, or float the gentle stretch of the French Broad River. The estate has a fly-fishing school and an outdoor center where you can sign up for an off-road ride in a Land Rover.

Today, the estate employs some 1,600 people, and is said to contribute $350 million annually into the Asheville economy.

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 daily to visitors, some are open only by appointment. Most are open to the public during scheduled "studio strolls," which are advertised at

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

During a whirlwind tour, we visited:

The Odyssey Center for the Ceramic Arts, which holds nine-week workshops with national artists.

Pattiy Torno, who makes quilts that sell for up to $10,000.

Genie Maples, who does large, colorful abstract oils that she calls "visual poetry."

Painter Skip Rohde, whose political satires included a painting of conservative commentator Ann Coulter wearing only a Gestapo jacket and knee-high black boots.

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. The rugged landscape has been featured in several movies, including "Last of the Mohicans."

The 1,000 acres had been owned by the Morse family of Missouri for 104 years, but the state of North Carolina in January announced it was buying the land for $24 million, which appeared to be a deal. "It was appraised by Sotheby's auction house at $55 million," said Megan Rogers, who led me on a short hike to the park's 404-foot-tall waterfall.

All that touring and hiking made me weary, so I finished the evening in a white van with Mark Lyons at the wheel and his wife, Trish, sitting shotgun. The couple takes small groups on "brews cruises," and we visited three of Asheville's five microbreweries, where we learned the art of turning barley, hops, yeast and water into beer.

Our first stop was Highland Brewing Co., which Mark said was owned by Oscar Wong. "He's a Chinese gentleman, born and raised in Jamaica, now selling a Scottish-style ale in North Carolina," he explained.

An American success story.



St. Louis Post-Dispatch



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Putting a local perspective on the subprime mortgage crisis



3/25/2007 - Putting a local perspective on the subprime mortgage crisis
by David Kanis and Beth Burdick

Ever since we penned our recent column on the crisis in the subprime mortgage industry, we have been barraged with questions about possible implications for the real estate market in Asheville. Since neither of us is a fortuneteller, were going to call it as we see it, given our combined 20-plus years in the mortgage industry.

Just as all politics are local, all real estate is local. We are not predicting a flood of foreclosures in Asheville instigated by subprime borrowers defaulting on their loans and dragging down all home prices as a result.

Are there people with subprime loans in Asheville? Yes. Are some of those people going to have problems when their mortgages readjust? Yes. And if you think you are one of them, we encourage you to contact your lender sooner than later to explore your options. Remember, the people who are predicted to face the greatest problems are those in states with stagnant or declining real estate values where it will make it difficult to impossible for an owner to refinance into a conventional loan. Expect to see the most significant impact in states like California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, where real estate prices had a huge run-up or in the industrialized states like Michigan, which have had heavy job losses.

One hundred percent loans for any property other than a primary residence are pretty much gone with the wind. The subprime crisis has impacted conventional A paper (good credit) borrowers as well. Lenders are eliminating 100 percent loans for all properties other than primary residences that conform to F guidelines; that is, verifiable income, assets and employment and strict debt-to-income ratios. Subprime lenders have raised the minimum credit scores for first-time home buyers by about 40 points on 100 percent loans. Gone are the days when if you could fog a mirror, you could get a loan.

Down payments will be required for second homes and investment properties. For those individuals with less than a 20 percent down payment, piggyback loans will come with higher interest rates, especially if you are a stated income borrower. More borrowers opt for mortgage insurance if they do not have the necessary credit scores to do a piggyback second. Its a good thing Congress made mortgage insurance tax-deductible in 2007.

Even if you are genuinely a low-documentation loan, expect to provide some documentation to your loan officer to verify the information that you are communicating to him. Since some members of Congress are proposing legislation that would allow borrowers to sue their lenders for placing them in loans which they cant afford, you can expect loan officers will want you to show them the money. No loan officer wants to set a borrower up for a potential foreclosure, not to mention losing his licensure.

Foreclosures represent only 1 percent of the total U.S. mortgage market. Interest rates for good-credit borrowers are at historic lows and because of the recent backlash on Wall Street, there is a flight by investors to bonds. Rates on fixed long bond products are actually coming down.

If you live in Asheville, dont let the national media reports prevent you from shopping for the home of your dreams. Last year real estate value increased an average of 11 percent. That sounds like a pretty good investment to us.

This is the opinion of David Kanis and Beth Burdick of Ashford Mortgage Advisors. They can be reached locally at 350-8886 or at

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Asheville Home Values Report



3/23/2007 - Asheville Home Values Report

ASHEVILLE - While many homeowners in major cities nationwide have seen their house values drop over the past year, Asheville homeowners continue to see their values going up.

The annual appreciation rate for Asheville was 11.7 percent for 2006 while the rate nationwide stood at only 5.9 percent, a rate that declined in each of the last four quarters.

While many housing markets were affected by speculative buyers "flipping" houses for profit, "people buy houses in Asheville to live in," said Tom Tveidt, research director for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

by Asheville Citizen Times

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Green Homes in Black Mountain



3/23/2007 - Green Homes in Black Mountain
by Asheville Citizen Times

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Marina Raye and Charlie Sheppard didn't pay their water or electric bills last month. They didn't have to.

Raye and Sheppard live "off the grid" in a house that makes its own electricity, collects rainwater from the roof and heats it with solar power. But if you have visions of some primitive cabin, think again.

Casa Solara, as the couple call their Black Mountain home, is a stunningly beautiful 3,868-square-foot home built with state-of-the-art "green building" technology. They moved into it in December.

"Green building is building to minimize the negative environmental and health aspect of construction," said Mark Bondurant, of Rare Earth Builders of Canton, the home's builder. "We do that by using recycled materials, making the structure very energy efficient and using nontoxic materials and finishes."

"Marina was the reason for the house," Sheppard said. "She has a lot of allergies, and we wanted a house that didn't have all the toxic fumes coming off the paint and materials." All the paint used on the interior of the house is clay-based and doesn't give off fumes.

"Regular plywood can out-gas formaldehyde, and some paints can release volatile organic carbons, which is a cancer risk," Bondurant said.

The couple's commitment to green building started when the land was being cleared. All the trees Sheppard cleared to site the house were milled into lumber that was used to build the garage. Any leftover wood was dried and burned in the high-efficiency wood stove that heats the house. "We hardly used any supplemental heat this winter," Sheppard said.

The house has radiant in-floor heat throughout. Water for the radiant system is heated mainly with solar collectors mounted on the roof with a propane-fired backup boiler.

The house generates electricity by way of a photovoltaic power system, where solar power is collected and stored in two massive batteries in the home's basement, then used to run the electrical system for the house.

The exterior of the house is made of aerated autoclaved concrete, a material ideal for passive solar heating.

"The exterior blocks are 12 inches thick," Raye said. "It creates a thermal mass that keeps the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

"These are high-mass walls that are ideal for passive solar heating," Bondurant said. "They absorb heat during the day and release it at night almost like a battery."

The couple made use of wood throughout the house. The floors in the upper level are recycled hardwood pallets. There are tongue-and-groove pine ceilings in much of the house and in the carport. These, along with the kitchen cabinets, are sealed with a nontoxic citrus oil and bees' wax sealant made by Earth Paint of Asheville. "It smells so good that it makes you hungry to put it on," Sheppard said.

The house uses the metal roof to catch rainwater, which is stored in a 500-gallon tank. Plumbing fixtures are low-flow which save some water but, more to the point, save the power required to pump the water hundreds of feet out of the ground.

Other "green" features found in the house include a high-efficiency refrigerator and compact fluorescent lighting, low-flow showerheads and toilets and all appliances are Energy Star certified. Solar tubes in the stairwell and bathroom provide lighting without the heat loss or heat gain of a regular skylight. "This is a project that a handy homeowner could easily take on," Raye said. "We never need to have lights on in these areas, even on cloudy days."

"There are a lot of ways homeowners can incorporate green and solar technology in their houses that don't require spending a lot of money," Raye said. "Things like the efficient refrigerator and the compact lighting can save money, and they're good for the Earth."

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Asheville Hospital News



3/20/2007 - Asheville Hospital News
by Kevin Litwin

Mission Hospitals earns national recognition for orthopedic care. Mission Hospitals has been recognized by the world specifically, by U.S. News & World Report. For 2006, the respected magazine named Mission as one of the top 50 hospitals in the nation for orthopedic care. Hospitals were rated on national reputation, good patient outcomes, nurse-to-patient ratio, treatment of orthopedic trauma care within the organization and use of technology.

The high ranking for us is quite prestigious because we are up there with hospitals in big cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston, says Dr. Stephen David, chairman of the orthopedic surgery service line at Mission Hospitals. Mission is a regional hospital that tends to a significant number of orthopedic procedures each year. In fact, we perform about 9,000 inpatient and outpatient orthopedic surgeries annually.

David says orthopedic surgeons from several private practice groups in Asheville come together to work well as a team at Mission.

The services we offer include joint replacement, trauma treatment, sports medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, pediatric orthopedic surgery, as well as specific treatment for the foot and ankle, hand, shoulder and spine, he says.

For example, in the area of joint replacement, David says Mission uses sophisticated techniques and space-age material implants to replace damaged hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and fingers.

Even individuals with late-stage arthritis of the knees and hips can receive help from our orthopedic department, often allowing such patients to lead active lives instead of being confined to wheelchairs, he says.

Jim Miller, vice president of clinical operations for Mission Hospitals, says another positive aspect of the orthopedic department is that it has reached nurse magnet status.

That refers to a department certification obtained through the American Nurses Association, citing professionalism in terms of patient care and health-care services, Miller says. It is one of the highest achievements a hospital can attain in the nursing field. In fact, the U.S. News & World Report ranking also recognized us for our nurse magnet certification.

Miller adds that Mission Hospitals has the latest and greatest in technology to deal with any orthopedic situation.

We have cutting-edge technology along with two trauma orthopedic surgeons on staff who can deal with car-wreck injuries or any other situations where severe musculoskeletal injuries might have be sustained, he says. Patients are best served at hospitals that perform a large number of procedures, and we certainly do plenty of orthopedic surgeries here at Mission.

Story by Kevin Litwin, Asheville Chamber of Commerce

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New Development In Oakley



3/19/2007 - New Development In Oakley
by Asheville Citizen Times

"ASHEVILLE A group of developers and planners is putting together plans for what would be one of the citys largest new housing developments in recent years along Fairview Road in Oakley.

But instead of the mountainside sites that are drawing so much interest from developers in the region and retirees moving to the area the development would be located in an urban setting on 30 acres thats now either graded and empty or occupied by two buildings, one industrial and one retail.

If plans are fully realized, the development with a working title of Whitaker Hill would have a little more than 500 housing units around a small village center with space for neighborhood-scale retailers and some office space.

City officials are scheduled to discuss the plans today during a meeting of the Technical Review Committee, which one developer said wont vote on the project until the committee receives more information. Plans would eventually require approval by City Council.

The project would be built according to New Urbanist design principles that emphasize compact communities that are easy for pedestrians to get around and offering a variety of types of housing at different price points.

The way designer Seth Harry describes it harkens back to an earlier time.

For residents of Whitaker Hill, Your kids will know their neighbors. Theyll be able to walk down to the local corner store, he said.

Whitaker Hill, he said, seeks to re-create many of the attributes of pre-World War II communities.

Were not delivering something new. What were really doing is creating one of the great walkable neighborhoods that we used to crate in this country, he said.

The project might be Oakleys Main Street, said Alan Glines, a city planner involved in reviewing the project.

Whitaker Hill will include apartments, many in duplexes and similar structures; some condominiums or town houses; and some single-family homes in a variety of sizes, Harry said. Many will be affordable for working people. Prices could start in the $160,000 to $180,000 range, he said.

The intention is to be as diverse as possible relative to the market for housing in the Asheville area, he said. Were not going after a niche market. Were not going for the visitor market.

Plans are still in flux, Harry said, partly because developers are continuing to negotiate with property owners. Construction could begin as early as this year but probably wont start until 2008, he said. Development would be done in phases.

A number of mixed-use projects proposed in the city in recent years have yet to be built. But Harry said there is a strong desire for housing that is not built along suburban models.

In other communities, Once one is built and people see how appealing the concept is, the market responds to it. Then, often, very quickly numerous examples pop up.

Harry, whose Seth Harry & Associates is based in Woodbine, Md., is working with local company GPS Development on the project along with local architect Daryl Rantis."

Mark Barnett, March 19, 2007, Asheville Citizen TImes

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Asheville Art Muesum To Add Significant Pieces



3/19/2007 - Asheville Art Muesum To Add Significant Pieces
by Paul Clark, Asheville Citizens Times

"The Collectors Circle, a membership and support group of the Asheville Art Museum, has acquired eight new works by significant American artists.

The museum is delighted to acquire so many important and dynamic works of art, said Pamela L. Myers, the museums executive director. Each of these works adds nuance and depth to the museums holdings and is extremely important to our understanding of contemporary American and Southeast art. We are profoundly grateful to the members of our Collectors Circle for the acquisitions.

The Collectors Circle is dedicated to learning about art and collections and to growing the museums permanent collection through annual purchases.

Personal involvement goes into each of these purchases, said circle member Rob Pulleyn. At the end of the night, when the committees funds were exhausted, individual members sponsored individual works.

The works acquired include Willie Coles Stowage (1997); Russell Gillespies Untitled (not dated); Mike Smiths Blountville, TN (1999), Piney Flats, TN (2005) and Blountville, TN (2003); John Cages Haiku (1952); Buckminster Fullers geodesic dome blueprints from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One (1981); and a 2000 work by Sherri Woods.

The group is still trying to raise funds for one more work, Roger Browns Plants That Glow in the Dark, Tra-La.

Brown, whose piece is displayed on the museums second floor, is one of the most well-known Chicago Imagists a group of primarily self-taught artists outside of the mainstream who painted funky and irreverent subject matter with surrealistic whimsy and caustic humor. Brown was born and raised in Alabama, and his work draws on his background.

Stowage is Coles largest and most ambitions print to date. The 8-foot-long woodcut is a piercing social commentary exploring issues of race, consumerism and traditional African beliefs. The work is the gift of circle members Ray Griffin and Thom Robinson, Cherry and Paul Lentz Saenger, Phillip Broughton and David Smith, Nat and Anne Burkhardt, Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer and Joen Goodman and Susan Turner.

Fullers blueprints explore what he is best known for, the creation of geodesic domes. His early experiments with domes took place at Black Mountain College, and he later went on to design the United States Pavilion at the Montreal Worlds Fair Expo in 1967. The acquisition is made possible by circle members Rob Pulleyn and the Saengers.

The Outsider folk art sculpture, Untitled, by Gillespie combines many materials used in early Appalachian rustic furniture but is nonfunctional, fanciful and decorative. Purchasing the piece were Griffin and Robinson, in honor of Nguyen Thi Lieu.

The three Smith color photographs explore the unique beauty of the Southern Appalachian region and the people who call it home. The works were acquired by the generosity of by Fran Myers, in honor of Nat Myers.

Cages Haiku was the first and only piece published by the Black Mountain College Music Press and emphasized this important 20th century composers calligraphy and spare, idiosyncratic musical composition. It was bought by Pulleyn and the Saengers.

The Woods piece explores the boundary between fine art and craft while addressing preconceived notions about womens work and roles and tattoo subculture. The work is courtesy of Randy Siegel, in honor of Ruth Hill."

Paul Clark, March 19, 2007, Asheville Citizen Times

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Biltmore Square Mall Sees New Stores



3/19/2007 - Biltmore Square Mall Sees New Stores
by Heather Judge

The Biltmore Square Mall is welcoming  a new achor store, Steve & Barry's University Sportswear. The 83,000 sqft should re-energize traffic at all the stores. Biltmore Square Mall is also welcoming a new eat in movie theatre which should open this summer.

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Asheville Named Hot Spot by Business Week



3/17/2007 - Asheville Named Hot Spot by Business Week
by Business Week Online

"Back on the beaten path, Asheville, N.C., is a longtime favorite for retirees. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this college town provides rich educational opportunities through the University of North Carolina at Asheville's College for Seniors. There's a symphony, an exquisitely preserved Art Deco downtown, and top-notch health care. An in-city arboretum offers easy-to-moderate hikes, and you have plenty of opportunities for day trips to the mountain lakes and hot springs for rafting, fishing, and more. In most every respect, such places can offer an exhilarating experience for energetic, vibrant retirees."

"At Home In The Hills, Settling In The Mountains? That can be the high life for high-energy retirees" Business Week Online July 26, 2004

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Building Boom Boosts Asheville Home Show



3/17/2007 - Building Boom Boosts Asheville Home Show
by Dale Neal, Asheville Citizen-Times

ASHEVILLE Ken Workman of Etowah couldnt resist the sound of running water on the second level of the Asheville Civic Center, where the WNC Home Show got under way Friday.

A working waterfall with rocks, live plants and sweet-smelling mulch highlighted the designs of GardenWerks. Mark Allen, Steven Townsend and company President Joanna Bender took about 18 to 20 hours to put the outdoor water feature in place, but the payoff could be big for the West Asheville landscaping company.

We get about 80 percent of our business from the home show, and the other 20 percent is usually word-of-mouth, said Allen, a design specialist.

Workman, a regular at the show, couldnt resist the waterfall or many of the booths featuring everything from home theaters to solar-powered saunas, kitchen appliances to bed mattresses, lumber to carpet.

Put me in a hardware store or a home show, Im a happy man, said Workman, who has bought items for his home from several vendors in the past.

With about 200 vendors to browse on three levels of the Civic Center, the home show should draw up to 12,000 visitors this week, said John Patterson of Western Carolina Productions. When we started in 1976, it was 50 salesmen with business cards for siding, Patterson joked.

With the booming construction industry in Western North Carolina, the home show has taken off. The show is really dependent on the economic conditions in the region, Patterson said.

The show runs the gamut of local builders, from modular homes to custom-built 8,000-square-foot timbered mansions, Patterson said, with all price points in between.

Many members of the sponsoring Asheville Home Builders Association got a preview Thursday, according to executive officer Caroline Sutton. We try to encourage builders to come through to see whats happening in the market.

March 17,2007


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