By Troy Winterrowd
Asheville has become a gay “Mecca.” This eclectic and artsy mountain town is both small city chic and southern down home friendly. However, there is not one particular area that attracts the gay population. Just as there are gay people relocating here from all corners of the country, there are gay people moving to all corners of Asheville.
The need for the “gayborhood” is over. Downtown Asheville is the urban core and the surrounding areas offer both rural and neighborhood settings. Pick a direction and there is a different appeal and reason to settle ....North, South, East or West.
Profiles of Recent Newcomers & Asheville Neighborhoods
Troy, a realtor for Real Living Connect and single gay man, moved here from Astoria, Oregon in 2006. Astoria has a population of 9,000 on the rainy northwest coast. “I had just left my thirteen-year relationship and felt that Astoria wasn’t an ideal place for a single gay man to live happily. At that same time my oldest friend, Randy Blackmon, called me and told me that he and his partner, Bob, were moving from Manhattan to Asheville. I said, “Where the h--- is Asheville? I had never heard of it. So, in the winter of 2006 I traveled here for two weeks. I think the thing that struck me most was the scale of Asheville. Having lived in both big cities and very small towns, Asheville seemed a combination of the two. The downtown area was enough to give me a sense of urbanism while it was five minutes from hiking and mountains. I now live in an apartment in a grand home built in the 1920’s in North Asheville. I love North Asheville. I can walk to downtown or hike the mountains. It is a great walking neighborhood with wide streets, sidewalks and direct access to the mountains. It is absolutely perfect.”
Gay couple Randy and Bob moved from Manhattan to West Asheville in 2006. They bought a home that is a prominent architecture style in Asheville – a craftsman “four square” home between the heart of West Asheville and downtown. Bob in particular likes the feel of West Asheville. Having grown up in Brooklyn and lived all his adult life in New York City, the funky and bohemian feeling of this village-type community appealed to him immediately. “I really like the eclectic mix of people here. It is a bit funkier than any other Asheville neighborhood,” says Bob. “We have great block parties and lively social gatherings – our neighbors have become friends.
Randy, who recently opened his own real estate company, Real Living Connect, provides some insight into “Why Asheville?” “Asheville as a town welcomes entrepreneurs. There are so many resources for opening your own business, especially in our downtown location. There is a great community of support especially with some of the gay companies we are partnering with, such as mortgage and design companies. And as far as investing in real estate, Asheville has always had steady growth. Just like our weather we do not suffer the extremes as in other areas of the country. I suspect that once the rest of the market shakes loose there will be a rapid demand for property here again with a backlog of people wanting to invest in the area.”
Two of the owners of the popular downtown wine bar, Sante, gay couple Scott and Terry, moved to Asheville from San Diego, California. Scott and Terry settled in a South Asheville neighborhood called Ballentree. A neighborhood built mostly in the sixties; they fell in love with a mid-century contemporary home that reminded them of California. “They were able to get a 3,000 sq/ft home for a good value.” says Scott. Terry is now head of the neighborhood organization, a mainly straight community. Terry, also a realtor with Advocate realty, shares this -"Being gay here is not an issue, no one even thinks about it. It is a very accepting, non-judgmental energy throughout Asheville – what’s not to love about that?”
Chris moved here from Austin, Texas as a single gay man. Having worked in the furniture industry he opened his own home furnishings store in Biltmore Village called “Dwellings.” Chris has owned a couple of homes in East Asheville. His first home built in the 50’s was in Beverly Hills, an established community, not far from downtown. The houses were on winding streets surrounding a golf course. “Beverly Hills is a great area to walk your dog because of the park-like environment,” said Chris. “My dog Sammie loved it and you always get the friendly wave from the neighbors as you pass by.”
Eventually Chris moved further out in a more isolated area called upper Riceville Road, where he purchased a contemporary home on a private hill overlooking the mountains. With regular visits from bears, snakes and turkeys, Chris enjoys the quiet and solitude of this rural country setting. “I fell in love with both the contemporary home I purchased and the stunning mountain views,” says Chris. “I love having my morning coffee on my front patio watching the sunrise over the mountains.”
Sandra moved to Asheville from Beverly Hills, California. She fell in love with the mix of cultures. Having left her busy life in the television industry she wanted an active lifestyle at her doorstep. Living downtown with all of its restaurants, entertainment venues and yoga centers provides her with endless distractions. Sandra decided to first rent. She found an amazing apartment at the Historic Grove Arcade in the heart of downtown. “I love the space and architecture. It is both very urban and old world at the same time. It feels a little bit like of New York City living, “says Sandra. Sandra is working with Troy to find the ideal condo to purchase downtown, but is in no hurry because she adores living in the Grove Arcade and loves the low maintenance lifestyle.
Town Mountain Road snakes through an area just above downtown Asheville. It is home to some amazing views, juxtaposing the downtown of Asheville with the mountains. Couple, John Moody and R. Hardy Holland III, found a vintage sixties contemporary house there they could not resist. Relocating from Atlanta they were looking for something that provided both an escape from being lost in the hectic pace of the city, but close enough to enjoy the great restaurants and nightlife that downtown Asheville provides. They feel they found the best of both worlds. John, a native of South Africa, can work from home where he puts together amazing safari’s with his company EZ Africa. Hardy can be downtown in five minutes to his office at Smith Barney where he is a Wealth Management Advisor.
Also see Montford Neighborhood