A video posted to Buzzfeed Video’s Facebook page yesterday evening has locals discussing the consequences and merit of the recent surge in national attention given to the city of Asheville and Western North Carolina.
The video, entitled “9 Reasons You Belong In Asheville”, highlights some of the city’s and region’s well-known attractions, with extensive focus on Asheville’s beer culture and outdoor recreational offerings. The nine reasons listed in the video include statements such as “You can drink your weight in beer downtown….” and “We didn’t earn the title ‘Gay Capital of the South’ for nothing.”
Other examples highlight the city’s proximity to the Appalachian Trail, the buskers downtown, Asheville’s culinary offerings and it’s plethora of arts and cultural activities.
While the Buzzfeed video has enjoyed over 400,000 views as of this post, several posters on the Asheville Politics Facebook page, where the video was re-posted shortly after it went up, have expressed concern or displeasure with the latest carriage car on the Asheville hype train.
A follow-up response to Cristie’s comment advised members that “the frenzy is likely to get worse/better depending on your perspective” and mused over the video’s reliance of Asheville’s brewing reputation, while it failed to address the cost of a night on the town.
The expense of visiting Asheville, let alone living in or around the city limits, was on several posters’ minds. Dallas Taylor questioned the origins of the video and whether there was any financial incentive, which sparked a conversation debating the merits of the video and how sustainable Asheville’s recent growth is in the long-run:
Grant Millin, owner of InnovoGraph LLC and longtime resident of Asheville, elaborated on his posts in a response to Xpress:
“The media hype is basically good. But it’s hype in many cases that has little to say about real conditions on the ground a big constituency of year round Asheville citizens have to contend with.” Millin points to high rent and low incomes as examples of conditions residents face on a daily basis. He sees the virtues of recent growth and expansion of the tourism industry, but believes that the city and region can’t let the underlying concerns of citizens be pushed to the wayside in the wake of the excitement.
“The recent Buzzfeed video points to this ‘Asheville Way’ of being and doing, but in a very superficial way,” says Millin. “What perturbs locals is the parasitical media hype that pulls away from meaning and big picture challenges and potential solutions to our serious risks.”
Millin is one of several candidates running for City Council, and cites a desire to revisit the Downtown Master Plan and take steps towards a ” more beneficial strategy…that works for the majority of Asheville folks. Suffering people in Asheville and our necessary environmental requirements are priorities.”
Richard Lee, one of the Asheville Politics Facebook page administrators, who is also running for city council in the upcoming election, says he understands residents’ concerns regarding livability and economic diversity in the region, and likens the city to “someone gifted with an amazing singing voice or a sports prodigy.”
“Being a beautiful age-old tourist destination helped us in a lot of ways to escape the collapse of manufacturing that hurt a lot of cities,” says Lee in a statement to Xpress. That being said, he recognizes the need to plan for a future that provides a more stable economic base and saves for a rainy day.
“Just like you hear about an athlete going bankrupt a few years after retirement, there’s this sense that we’re not investing in post-tourism life, like we’re acting like the good times will never stop,” he says, “but they do. Tastes change, small towns get big.”
Several posters tried to take an optimistic view of the current boom in visitors:
Other posters took a more sardonic approach:
Follow-up posts from Taylor and others discussed the topic from a socio-economic perspective:
Resident John Spears added:
While the video and resulting comments could be viewed as an isolated discussion, the tone of conversation throughout seems to point to a growing sense of ambiguity on the part of residents who appreciate the recent publicity directed towards their city and new face of construction and growth, but want to ensure that the emperor is wearing something under his scaffold facade.