Set among the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at an elevation of around 2000 feet, Asheville occupies 41 square miles along the banks of the French Broad River. With about 74,000 residents, Asheville is the most populous city in the western portion of North Carolina and serves as the economic and cultural hub of Buncombe County. With a flourishing downtown arts and shopping district, as well as a wide range of outdoor adventures available within a short driving distance, Asheville is quickly becoming one of North Carolina's most exciting and attractive urban cities.
Asheville has seen steady growth over the last decade and has been recognized by a number of national media outlets and formal studies for its high standard of living, vibrant culture, and other perks. In particular, Asheville has been cited as a great place to live for seniors, women, vegetarians, those starting new careers, and counter-cultural youth by such publications as Modern Maturity, Self, and Rolling Stone. Studies have shown the population as a whole to be relatively happy and satisfied in comparison to other American locales.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Asheville was particularly shaken by the Great Depression, with per capita debt being the highest in the nation at the time. The city was forced to pay off its bonds over the next half-century, leaving little extra money for renovation. As a result, the city's downtown area is home to an unusually large number of art deco buildings, making the neighborhood a tourist attraction in its own right.
Asheville's economy is fueled by the industries of manufacturing, health care and tourism. Professional and business services has also emerged as a strength of the local workforce.
Today, the local economy is increasingly helped by the arts and music. The downtown area's uniquely archaic visual aspects, coupled with the fantastic natural scenery to be found in the surrounding region, has made the city an attractive option for filmmakers, and dozens of movies have been filmed in the area in recent decades. The annual Asheville Film Festival has helped to further interest in the city's budding role as a regional node of television and film.
Asheville's major employers include Ingles Markets, Inc., Mission Health System and Hospital, the Biltmore Company Museums, and the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
The city of Asheville accommodates a mostly urban population over 73,000. Neighborhoods and districts of Asheville accommodate around 33,000 houses, out of which more than 30,000 are occupied. Of the occupied houses, more than half are owner-occupied while renters occupy the rest. The median home price in Asheville is significantly higher than the statewide median.
The walkability of Asheville is decent. Most of the places like grocery stores, restaurants and schools are within a mile from the center of the city.
Some of Asheville's neighborhoods include:
- Downtown Asheville skipped the urban renewal process that took place after the Great Depression, preserving the Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical architecture and providing an impressive backdrop for a vibrant downtown. The area is a hotspot for both locals and tourists, with almost 200 retail shops, several museums and theatres, 30 galleries, 60 eateries, and a dozen nightspots.
- Grove Park and North Asheville are just north of Downtown. The Grove Park area was first developed in the 1920s, and many of the homes are traditional homes of that period - beautifully wooded on half-acre lots. Many of the homes in this area have some distinctive architectural details found throughout Asheville, such as Pebbledash stucco in combination with Cedar Shake, and intricately patterned windows.
- Kenilworth, just south of Downtown, is known for its bungalows and homes from the 1920s. The area has rolling hills and ravines and lots of old trees, and is home to some of Asheville's most unique "Spanish Style" homes from the 1920s, large stucco homes with tile roofs and unique architectural details.
- Montford is a historic neighborhood, located just north of downtown. A portion of Montford is a National Register Historic District with more than 600 buildings, mostly residences, built between 1890 and 1920.
- West Asheville is a bohemian neighborhood, with modern businesses inside of older buildings. This area was revitalized in the mid-1990s and now features a number of restaurants, vintage clothing stores, and antique shops. Haywood Road has been the main street of West Asheville for more than a century.
- The River Arts District is home to more than 100 working artists inside the old factories and warehouses along the French Broad River.
Asheville is one of Southern Appalachia's most important centers of higher education, as the city is home to the University of North Carolina at Asheville, South College, and Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, among other institutions.
Several other universities and campuses are located in the city's surrounding area, including:
- Black Mountain College
- Montreat College
- Western Carolina University.
- Biltmore Estate: Encompassing 175,000 square feet and 225 rooms, Biltmore is the largest private home in America and, with over one million visitors each year, one of North Carolina's most popular tourist attractions. Construction on the French Renaissance-style summer estate began in 1888 and was completed seven years later. The structure originally served as vacation home for George Washington Vanderbilt, until in 1956, the Vanderbilt family opened it to the public as a museum. Biltmore Estate still includes a number of interesting features that were quite advanced for the time, such as elevators and an intercom system.
- North Carolina Arboretum: This 434-acre nature preserve is home to a range of manicured and natural garden areas, each with a unique focus. The Heritage Garden, for instance, includes plants of economic and cultural significance to the region due to their use in southern Appalachian crafts such as broom-making and basket weaving, while the Bonsai Garden features more than 100 bonsai specimens in various stages of development. The North Carolina Arboretum also offers an extensive array of educational programs covering many aspects of plant biology and related disciplines.
- Bele Chere: Held on the last weekend of each July in downtown Asheville, Bele Chere attracts well over 300,000 attendees each year, making it the largest event of its kind in the southeast. Much of the festival's visual art is centered around Arts Park, while musical performances, mostly involving folk, country, jazz, and rock, are held on several street-corner stages located around the city.
- Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival: Each September, downtown Asheville hosts the Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival, a single-day event replete with live music, regional cuisine, an art auction, and many of the city's celebrated street performers.
- Shindig on the Green: Throughout summer, Asheville residents and visitors assemble at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Saturday evenings at sundown for the city's most notable ongoing seasonal concert series. Shindig on the Green includes stage performances by regional bluegrass acts, mountain-inspired dance troupes, and other traditional manifestations of Appalachian culture; meanwhile, drum circles form in the area.
- Mountain Dance and Folk Festival: Having originated in 1928, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival is one of the region's most important annual events, bringing in such regional staples of entertainment as fiddlers, banjo pickers, and balladeers. The music festival takes place on the first weekend of each August and is generally held at the Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville.