Asheville becoming an elitist city

For some years, my husband and I have been fortunate to own homes in both Sarasota, Fla.,  where we worked, and a vacation home here in Asheville.

After we both retired three years ago, we had to downsize to one home.

It was a tough choice, but we both said that Sarasota had lost the one thing that drew us there to begin with: its funkiness. The little beach cottages were bought and replaced with gated high-rise condos along with the expensive restaurants and high-end specialty shops. Noise ordinances soon followed, stifling music venues. For us it lost its soul, and it lost us to become residents of Asheville.

Now déjà vu: It’s happening all over again!

Asheville is also losing the funk and soul that we thought our hippy hearts would enjoy the rest of our lives.

Gone are Bele Chere, Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival,  Goombay and affordable living for the 99 percent of us.

Just this week we received a postcard from Biltmore Estate informing us they will no longer allow outside food and beverages brought in to their Live After Five concert series on the lawn at Antler Hill Village, which was so much fun for families bringing kids, dogs and picnic baskets (with our own wine). All must be now purchased on site from Biltmore vendors.

This is another stake in the heart for Asheville families trying to find fun on limited budgets.

What is next to go: Downtown After 5, the Drum Circle at Pritchard Park, buskers? That would be my prediction for a city that is being molded to cater to the privileged 1 percent. The energy and soul of this city has shifted, and sadly it no longer feels like home.

Joan Deaver

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33 thoughts on “Asheville becoming an elitist city

  1. boatrocker

    9:27pm, Oct 14, @0014, AD.

    If I’m hearing the author of this letter right, when she had to make the tough choice to ‘downsize’ (aka reduce to only one home) in order to retire here, she and her mate chose to sell the home/s from Florida, which she seems to think has lost its soul. Then upon moving here and meeting others like her, she now laments that Asheville has lost its soul for catering only to those who afford to live in an upper tax bracket. Then she laments the loss of our once unique culture in order to cater to those who might only live here a few weeks out of the year.

    Did I about cover everything in my summary?

    comments suggesting that I’m ‘hating’ or have a bad attitude in 5..4..3..2..1…

    • Joan Deaver

      As author of this letter Asheville Becoming Elitist City, I omitted an important fact. My parents were both born and raised in Bakersville NC, growing up on farms there. I have been returning to these mountains all my life because I still have many relatives here. I have Cherokee ancestry on both sides of my family. I wasn’t just a FL tourist who took a liking here while on vacation. This is my ancestral home that I felt a yearning to return to.

  2. Dionysis

    The “privileged 1 percent”? Yes, they would be those who have multiple vacation homes from which to choose.

    • Dee

      We don’t know what sort of homes these people owned in Sarasota and Asheville. Don’t assume they are wealthy. They could be low end homes.

      • candi591

        I know what type of homes they owned in both FL and NC. It is all public record, you just need to know where to look. Trust me, they were not “low end homes.”

  3. You’d certainly know about elitism.

    I assume you know all the festivals you cited lost vast sums of money. For example, when the city finally got around to doing a basic accounting of Bele Chere they noticed a 1/2 million hole per year. Not acceptable.

    • Lianna

      To be fair, let’s ignore the fact that Bele Chere lost 1/2 million dollars a year and point out how much the local businesses lost out. People from outside Asheville were making a ton of profit, and Bele Chere which was initially started to revitalize downtown, basically wound up screwing the local businesses. None of the business owners downtown wanted to deal with Bele Chere, because it meant a bunch of drunks hanging out in their stores, using their bathrooms without paying, and having to pay more for employees to hang out dealing with the drunks who didn’t buy anything.

  4. Lisa Watters

    I’m pretty sure both Goombay and LAAFF happened this year.

  5. Althea

    I get your point, OP, but I’m mystified that you seem completely unaware that you yourself are part of the elite.

  6. Gil Kempenich

    Right. It boils down to economics. If a festival keeps losing money, who is going to pay for keeping it going? HardLox – The Jewish Food and Heritage Festival (this Sunday – Oct 19) has been around for now 12 years and still going strong. Just one example. Shindig, Drum Circle, River Arts District, a whole lot of funkiness and quirkiness will stick around. Asheville is by far the most eclectic town we know, and continues to be. By the way, just look at the calendar in the Mountain Express, surely you can find loads to your liking. Broadening your horizons may help.

  7. chops

    The Biltmore Estate is gated, isn’t it? You are paying for your gentrification.

  8. Dionysis

    The most recent statistics on vacation home ownership by Americans indicates that as of last year, 6% owned vacation homes. The majority of these, however, were located within 150 miles of their primary residence. So, “hippy hearts” notwithstanding, the letter writer clearly falls in the ‘elite’ category.

    And Lisa Watters is correct; both LAAFF and Goombay were held this year, and both were enjoyable.

  9. Freddie Schlong

    I have been here almost a decade and can’t wait to leave the city. Love the nature and the beauty, but the people are horrendous. I have never met so many self-entitled elitists who make money from trusts and the criminal markets and brokers. Affluensa is worse than Ebola…it is contaminating of souls and this city is losing its soul fast to the $5 beers, $100 restaurants +20% tip. The visual art scene is a scam and joke. Criminal in advertising it. Great Craft and Music though….anyway the Yankees did me in…gotta go ! North Carolina was my birth and favorite state but it has been ruined by the Corporate Trust Fund Kids who are nasty and ugly emotional and physical predators of anything and anyone around them.

    • John

      I grew up in North Carolina, but lived 10 years up north. They don’t really call themselves Yankees anymore (unless they are a NY Yankees fan). Unhelpful stereotypes exist on both sides on the Mason-Dixon line. I have defended southerners and northerners. I would hear people up North say the heat fried their brains down south, that southerners were stupid uneducated. They seem to think everyone lives in trailers, have big trucks blaring country music, and are on food stamps. While there is truth on both sides (I grew up in a trailer listening to country music), I think we need to move on as Americans and stop insulting someone based on where they come from. Believe it or not, there are dignified southerners and northerners living in trailers listening to country music (no offense to a good ole’ country music).

  10. NFB

    Asheville is not becoming an “elitist city.” It has been an “elitist city” for decades. But aside from that I am glad to see, from the other comments posted here, gthat I am not the only one who sees the deep and profound irony (if not flat out hypocrisy) of someone who owned two homes complaining about the very “elitism” they seem to think is new to Asheville and is ruining it.

    • mg massey

      Ironically, it was not because my ancestors were from here that I moved here. I didn’t know we were from here when I came to Asheville. Just loved the mountains. Turns out that we are Tsalagi(Cherokee) and all sides of my family are from here.Yet, I didn’t know that till many , many years later. All I can is, I sure do understand now how my ancestors felt. Elitists, you bet. Good old boy/elitist, insular and not as liberal as it portrays itself. Racists and more concerned with adult rights than children rights . Now I know why they call it the “Trail Of Tears” .Moving home to where my ancestors came from has caused me nothing but tears. Love the mountains hate the power structure, the people are snarky and self absorbed . Violating civil rights is an art form here. Friendly? Nope not at all. Judgemental.. hateful and cruel,.. all of the above. But this time, this Tsalagi isn’t leaving. I’d rather put up with the meanness so I can be in the mountains. Besides, since they don’t speak to me, I sure do have my privacy.I bet my ancestors wished they did. Hypocrisy writ large. The town that has to spend millions advertising itself cause they cannot be bothered to do the right thing for all its citizens. Nice thing about it, the real local, the mountain folks are sweet as can be and kind as the day is long. the townies.. well , like most townies, so materialistically oriented they wouldn’t know empathy if it bit them. Bet five buck they won’t publish this letter.

      • Dee

        I believe a certain amount of class exists where moneyed people live and Asheville certainly suffers from a lack of class. The demonic oppression is suffocating downtown since the New Agers and gays have come. “Little San Francisco” it’s called….how indecent. The rudest and most morally deficient people came from other areas and need to go back.

  11. Gisela Egner

    My husband and I miss the festivals, too – especially Bele Chere. Asheville still is a quirky town and there are still lots of things going on – but it has lost some of its attraction. Bele Chere was a major reason we moved there originally and all the other musical happenings around town. Don’t change too many more things!

  12. jeeper

    I hope asheville can keep its funky vibe, but all good things come to an end? I hope not, I love the eclectic people that live here. I hope some one calls me one of them too! Asheville “improving” or getting better isnt all that bad. I fear the city council has their noses in the air with all the new projects they have planned which will ruin alot of the funky areas around the city but maybe its not all that bad. It could provide better jobs for us 99 percent or not. Maybe the funky people that live here need to get funkier. I only wish the unaffordable housing became affordable again. Asheville losing its funkiness or not I love the mountains and love Asheville.

  13. John

    Joan was comparing herself to the 1%. As she is/was in the 6%, she is not as privileges as they are. I’m guessing has dropped a few wealth brackets because of retirement, so everything seems so much more expensive.

  14. As an Asheville Native I see the degradation, but I see a lot of the problems comming from an ‘overexposure’ of the ‘funky’ nature of the town in the national press. Mostly, I see the problem as two fold…
    Firstly, you have a town that has become economically prohibitive for most natives to survive… I, myself just lost a rental home because of hikes in prices beyond what my job afforded, which was a minimum wage service job to begin with… Almost ALL of my peers, who are also natives, have likewise been forced out as a result of rising expenses not meeting pay time and again… They, like myself, Wanted to Stay!
    This trait is worsened by the second issue, which is the number of new people moving in and displacing them… This is mostly a problem because new people who hear about Asheville come here to Watch and Partake of its quirkiness and seldom actually Add anything to the area or seek to asymilate into the culture…
    We have had an influx of people who’s intent is to retire and become Spectators in the city instead of Participants… This, added to the increased costs and loss of creative depth has turned us into something of a hollow facade of a ‘funky’ town…
    Consider how often the areas of increased culture and self expression also coencide with the areas of less income and a certain need to create due to having little to start with… From Lexington Ave, to West Asheville, to the River Arts District, it is consistently the lower income areas that seem to harbor the most creativity… Likewise, it is these communities with little that welcome new artists with open arms throughout their development phases…
    Compare that to a drive down the street in one of the gated communities consuming this town…
    Spectators only want to see the burlesque shows once and a while… and they are the first to complain if they happen to have a neighbor who needs to rehearse their band, or spread out their art supplies in their backyard… They want comical clownlike street performers when they choose, but are the first to run off a ‘panhandler’ if they stroll down the wrong street…
    The bottom line is, Asheville has thrived in the past because of a mix of acceptance, creativity, and a willingness to allow self expression…
    Be it Haight Ashbury, Harlem, The French Quarter of New Orleans or even our own burgeoning artistic communities, it is an environment of Affordability, acceptance, and Community support that fosters the ‘funky’ areas that the ‘spectators’ are willing to ride through in a tour bus, taking pictures and keeping the colorful locals at arm’s length…
    But then, how many of those managed not to become overpriced shadows of their former glory?
    To save what we are losing we need to learn to value that which we once had!

    • Dee

      You really did say what most natives are feeling about this invasion. Now if we can call a halt to the nauseating City Councils uplifting of homosexuality and naked bike riding, many will feel a little better.

  15. Anonymous

    When people buy vacation homes in towns the contribute to the gentrification and growing elitism. My family has been from WNC for multiple generations and I moved away because I could no longer bear the insufferable entitlement of people who MOVED to Asheville. thus contributing to said gentrification and growing elitism, complaining about how it wasn’t the oh-so-quaint Southern town they moved to.

    Sorry, not sorry. I was born in those mountains and couldn’t bear the heartbreak of seeing one more goddamn condo being built.
    Don’t contribute to the problem and then complain as if it doesn’t apply to you.

    • Dionysis

      Emblematic of this is Reynolds Mountain. The Appalachian Mountains are the oldest on the planet, and we see how the forces of greed turned it into an elitist enclave populated by people driving expensive cars, many with out-of-state tags.

      There is nothing wrong with people moving to a new locale, including moving to the Asheville area. However, there is something deeply wrong with people coming to another town and believing they have an inherent right to whine, complain and criticize that things aren’t how they want them to be, or even worse, spark activities that undermine the essence of that city and environs (i.e. developmental decisions to appease these interlopers).

      • David Wilson

        > believing they have an inherent right to whine

        Would you care for some cheeze with that whine, Sir?

        • Dionysis

          Since I am not whining, I’ll pass. I do wonder if that cute retort was considered funny back when it was coined decades ago, however.

  16. I might add, Asheville also seems to have lost its willingness to foster its own local acts and artists… The small Mom and Pop venues which were glad to give anyone a bit of time and space have been replaced by snooty selfimportant chains that have no desire to see up-and-comming talent work their way through… Likewise, we have a surge of new residence who baulk at attending shows when they don’t already know the artists, or purchasing work by untested artisans… We need a population and an economy that values Native Work over glossy traveling shows… just as we need to foster a local appreciation and support for our own people’s work. In a town of newbies and transplants we need to amplify the native voice to assert the very culture that new people have come here to experience. Every chain store that elbows a local small buisiness out is one more chip away from Asheville’s uniqueness and one more step along the path to mundane assimilation…
    This Starts, of course, by ensuring that natives have the money to frequent the stores in their own town, many which they may actually work for… and in so doing, allowing them the economic freedom to champion their favorite venues… but it is continued by pushing all incomming people to resist the urge to go to the chains they recognise from their own, lamer, towns of origin, and to frequent, instead, the uniquely Asheville businesses that make this town what it is!
    Again, the key to fostering the sort of town we all want is to focus on making it Affordable for struggling artists, Accepting of their work and their eccentricities, but also Willing to Embrace new artists and untried work… to give them the time and scope to develop their own unique expressions without demanding a pre-adherance to the accepted popular norms…

  17. candi591

    Oh be gentle. While it may appear that Ms. Deaver, and her husband Edward, are living the high life and rubbing elbows with the 6%, it appears that their new reality is that they have had to some serious downsizing, not just the admitted selection of only one home, since retiring. According to public records, they have lost a lot of money on their houses (plural) over the past 10+ years and most recently have had to endure the wrath of the evil monster Foreclosure of their one and only North Carolina home. As far as I can tell, they currently own NO HOMES and most likely are simple renters. She was speaking the truth when she cited “limited budget” in her plea for affordable living and activities. Bless her heart.

    • Joan Deaver

      Thanks for your blessing. We can all benefit by them. One key fact I regret omitting from my letter is this: My family, going back many generations, are from these mountains. My parents were both born and raised on farms in Bakersville. My paternal grandfather was once sheriff of Mitchell county. I am of Cherokee heritage on both sides of my family. I have been coming back to these mountains all my life having many relatives still here. As you can see I was not just a FL tourist who took a liking to these parts while on vacation. This is my ancestral home that I felt a yearning to return to. May God bless you as well.

  18. mg massey

    gentrification ruined the inner neighborhood areas of Atlanta years ago. However it took this journey here to understand gentrification as a class war. When will all people consider how their actions affect others.? Recent studies, aired on NPR , showcased a study about why the rich cannot empathize. The answers should be obvious to anyone. Since Rome the same divide and conquer strategies urge people to blame the other.. keeping us all sniping while the rich benefit. When will we build bridges of common ground and respect the differences? IT is the rich against the rest of us..doesn’t matter who you are. Capitalism would be great if it was practiced with ethics, accountability, transparency and consideration for how it affects others. All problems really boil down to a lack of RESPECT!

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