We are back in Asheville getting everything ready for movers. While moving overall sucks, letting go of that next layer of useless stuff feels pretty awesome. We have been donating crazy amounts of stuff to our favorite charity thrift store, Brother Wolf. It also feels great to get things somewhat organized to go into our new home.
This big moving idea, has been …no lie…a year and a half process. I am just ready to be on the other side of it all. One of the things I get asked so very often is why we are leaving Asheville. Asheville is one of those magical destination places that everyone loves. And true there are some things I am going to miss the heck out of when we go. A part of me is in denial. I know I can always come back and visit easily (about a 3.5-4 hr. drive down the interstate) since we have family vacation condos here. But, alas, here in lies the difference between living in Asheville and visiting Asheville. So today’s Friday 5 is all about 5 things that made us decide to move.
#1 Jobs are insanely hard to come by
This has always been true of Asheville ever since I first moved here. But since becoming so freaking popular, that job hunt in Asheville is next to impossible. Granted there is a crazy amount of service industry jobs. Especially thanks to the booming tourism industry. And there is a huge amount of support and resources for entrepreneurship especially if you are an artist. I don’t agree with all of the information available to artists, but it is awesome that it is available. But when it comes to average professional jobs, the competition is crazy huge, and the pay is far below other areas. Put it this way, an art director position at a local weekly pub pays 1/3 of what I could make in another town. I could make 3x and average Asheville art director salary elsewhere. It is also $3k/yr less than what I was making in 1991(at the age of 25), and with out benefits. I knowingly took a 35% cut in pay when I moved here in 2001, and the cost of living was about the same as it was in Birmingham at that time. I was still within a livable wage and was in love love love with Asheville overall. So to me it was worth it back then. But that said even those jobs have dwindles significantly. The publisher I had worked for closed shop 3 years ago. My fiber art business is very portable, so I could be anywhere really. Bruce was easily able to get temporary work across state, even with an out of town address. Plus, there has been far more job opportunities for him in the Raleigh/Durham area that pay significantly more.
#2 Tourism is spiking the cost of living
Tourism will always drive the prices up in any town. Asheville has been hitting the top destination lists across so many publications for more than 15 years now. And with that comes tourism prices on everything from groceries to utilities to housing. To many visitors, Asheville is still pretty cheap compared to New York, California, Florida, DC. But, in those places the salaries are also significantly higher. Tourism prices makes it hard for locals with crap wages to scrape together a living much less thrive.
#3 More specifically housing is expensive
Let me first say that, this actually worked to our favor when selling our house. The house I bought in 2002, had significantly increased in value as my neighborhood became one of the more desirable zip codes in the South. My house was a tiny 1000 Sq ft bungalow that was way too small for us + a fiber art business. But upgrading was out of the question within the Asheville area. Price per square foot is significantly lower ANYWHERE in NC outside of Asheville. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have a home with more that 2 tiny closets.
#4 A city in denial about the growth
Asheville population has increased by a third since I moved here in 2001. But the tourism has grown even more. Asheville seems to be having some serious growing pains in terms of infrastructure. The roads we not planned with such growth in tourism. The numbers may work for the actual population, but on the weekends the city swells exponentially. We had gotten to the point of not wanting to leave the house and fight the traffic and parking after Thursday night through Monday afternoon. The city council has strong ties to developers and have been approving developments that would increase density in areas that are already so very congested, with no ways to expand roads to improve that congestion. Granted this is a town of liberal activists. And they have been very active in fighting many of these developements.
And let me just say these tourist are just as a whole…RUDE and lousy drivers. Locals are reactive to them as well which is making the roads crazy dangerous. There have been all kinds of heated debates on my neighborhood FB page about the traffic. And yes traffic in Raleigh can be intense too. But so far, I have noticed people are not as rude, and it actually moves despite the density on the roads at rush hour. And even a drive across town can be quicker than a drive through Asheville on the weekend.
I also need to point out that our new home is actually in a new cookie cutter looking development. The entire town of Cary is somewhat of a new developements kind of place. I kind of was surprised that I was okay with it, once I went to the grocery stores to see who my neighbors would be. What I found was a very diverse group of everyday people who were general kind, but for the most part kept to themselves. But the roads were planned with the that small yard cookie cutter type of density in mind… including a killer network of green ways and sidewalks. And I could not resist the crazy good studio space.
#5 The vibe is just different
This is a little harder to describe, but the Asheville I fell in love with in 2000, has changed in a way that I am just not loving anymore. One example is the focus of downtown was once a place for the community to come together, go to work, support their fellow artists, and just hang with fellow hippie artist Ashevillagers. Now it is completely tourism focused. Little shops and small businesses are being replaced by high end restaurants, tourist focused shopping and hotels. In the past what tourists loved about Asheville was integrating with the hippie artists in our community. Now it is just another place to see other tourists. Studio space is too expensive for many of us, especially in the trendy River Arts District. I have yet to locate the places where my old artist hippie locals have migrated to. And it seems that that kind of local has left all together.
That being said, I have changed too. I have gotten older and feel out of touch with the millennial hipsters that have moved here in droves. Becoming one of the countries many “Beer Cities” has not been something I vibe with either. It feels like a perpetual frat party in some areas. I am also just tired of struggling here for the love of a town that is fading for me. What I love about Asheville has become the friends I have made here. And for that I will always come back. As one dread headed hippie girl once told me back when I first moved here, “Mother Asheville will totally let you know you are welcome to stay here, and also let you know when it is time to go.” Yep, we totally knew when our time here was done. I am not bitter, or necessarily angry at the tourist. Historically artists move into depressed communities and become a vital part of a community revival. They buy and rehab the cheap properties in crap neighborhoods. Haight Ashbury, Soho, Even my old neighborhood, Southside Birmingham, has seen this. And currently this is what is happening in places devastated by the economic downturn of 2008 like Cleveland, Pittsburg and Detroit (so I hear…). I am proud that I could be a tee-tiny part of helping make Asheville the funky art town it once was, and helping make it a place others would fall in love with. It is just time to move to the next community and that is okay. It is the nature of who I hang out with.
As we were driving back into town last week, I was noticing how lovely the mountains were, and realized I will miss seeing them everyday. I look forward feeling welcomed by those mountains when I return to visit my friends.
So what are your Friday5? leave me a comment below, or post them on your blog and leave a link in the comments. Have a good weekend y’all.