West Asheville. Hank Williams, Jr., David Allen Coe and Waylon Jennings.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Asheville Revitalization

Think about this for a moment:  Just forty years ago, like a lot of cities across America, Asheville's downtown was in a state of neglect, and the interest was more on developing the suburbs.  90% of buildings downtown were just empty.  Luckily, a few Ashevillians and some transplants who came here from across the country, had a vision for this city.  Asheville not only reclaimed its former Vanderbilt glory but it embarked on something even bigger. 

The video gives you the substance.  Here are a few notes from it:
  • Asheville's identity is inseparable from the arts.  The arts continue to pump new blood into Asheville's culture and economy.
  • People come here.  It's like the Wild Wild West of Western North Carolina.
  • The River Arts District is where young people open up studios.....vibrant, wacky, raw.   Textile warehouses and industrial buildings have been converted to art spaces.  30 artists initially moved into the RAD, and now there are 180!
  • The arts are a part of Asheville's Economic Development Plan.  It's a significant component of a strong economy.  It's a quality of life matter AND business one.
Other thoughts:

Not long ago I read about a local family that still owned significant downtown Asheville properties.  The "wheelers and dealers" in the family had remained in Asheville, but also spent lots of time in Vancouver, BC (Canada), where they lived in the summer.  What was interesting about the family was that, from their time in Vancouver, arguably the most beautiful city in North America, they saw new ways of using downtown spaces and designing a city in ways that enrich people's lives.  And, as they moved back and forth from Vancouver to Asheville, they starting incorporating these ideas into their Asheville properties, making the downtown even more interesting and vibrant.  In time, as I find videos and articles, I will post them on my blog.  When I read the article, it solidified what had been thinking for a while, and confirmed what evidence I had seen from my own travels:  Those regions of the world, and cities of the world, that not only withstand economic downturns but continue growing and innovating and attracting people are those places that welcome new ideas and people who have them, and have structures in place that aid in successfully moving concepts into reality.  Bangkok is such a place, albeit you might expect that because it's a metropolis, and cities of that size tend to have a certain high-level of energy and forward-thinking.  But Asheville, in its own way, certainly for a smaller city, is also that kind of place. 

Now there's a downside to Asheville, and people certainly have contrary opinions to the idea Asheville is all it's cracked up to be.  Local people are some of your biggest dissenters.  Just today, I picked up a copy of the local Mountain Xpress and found the article Fragmented to be quite entertaining.  Unlike the website page, the actual paper is filled with people, through letters, coming to the defense of Asheville, and people who also concur with some of the negavity the article mentions.

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