Learn what it's like to live in Downtown Asheville, NC. I'll try to answer your questions about things to do Downtown, what it's like to live in Asheville's downtown core, weather, getting around, and the pros and cons of moving to the Downtown Asheville area.
When starting this blog, I realized that there wasn't a lot of information about what it's like to live in Downtown Asheville.
There is a lot of writing out there about what it's like to visit Asheville, but I realized that a lot of that information is written by travel bloggers or tourism bloggers.
Downtown Asheville is a really interesting place to explore, especially if you've spent a lot of time in an area with significant urban sprawl, like I have.
The Downtown part of Asheville is actually quite small: about 8 square blocks.
Most of the streets in Downtown Asheville are pretty typical low-key version of you would find in a quaint village in Manhattan or Boston. The avenues are lined with local independent stores, restaurants, pubs, boutique shops, and entertainment venues.
This was (still is) one of the things I love about our Downtown. The few narrow streets/corridors we have make it feels somewhat European. And it's not hard to find a coffee shop or place to grab a bite to eat. I still haven't tried all of the places.
I think there's a lot to be said for living in the center of the city’s action. If you're coming from an area where you've never been able to walk out your front door and walk to breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or drinks, Downtown Asheville can provide that.
Finding a spot to call home downtown means you are looking at lofts, apartments, condos, and the rare single family home.
I have a couple of friends who live Downtown, and they enjoy being able to work around the corner from their house. They also are able to walk to the gym and grocery store. But, traveling to Downtown for work or play from one of Asheville's suburbs can be a nightmare.
There is a traditional box gym (YMCA), cycling studio (SOR Studios), and high-intensity fitness studio (Madabolic) within minutes of Downtown.
Living Downtown also means that you are super close to the famed Orange Peel, the Fine Arts Theatre, Asheville Art Museum, Diana Wortham Theatre, and the U.S. Cellular Center/Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. I've seen quite a few shows at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. The sound system there is OK, but they seem to pull in good acts. I prefer the Orange Peel.
Overall, Asheville is cosmopolitan, an arts and crafts center, diverse, liberal, progressive, beautiful, a foodie center, a craft beer center, not to mention adjacent to the highest mountains in Eastern America and nearby more than 1 1/2 million acres of national parks and other protected land.
But it’s not for everyone, of course. There are downsides — increasingly heavy traffic, high city property taxes, high home and land prices, not too many high-paying jobs. I write about this a little more at the end of this blog post.
What is it like to live in Downtown Asheville?
I recommend spending time in the downtown area if you are visiting. It's certainly not hard to find things to do downtown, so chances are you're already planning on being in the area.
When moving to Asheville, one of the biggest considerations I made was "proximity to downtown." I knew that I did not necessarily want to be in an agricultural area with land away from the City, so I focused my efforts accordingly.
If you're looking for an "untouched" small Appalachian town, Asheville is not that (it once was).
The Downtown area as well as the adjacent South Slope area has been reshaped over the last 10 years to the extent that it is now thriving business district that caters largely to the millions of tourists that visit annually.
What can you do for fun in Downtown Asheville?
For a tasty breakfast and great outdoor space, head to All Day Darling. They have a fantastic all-day breakfast menu and a lovely outdoor seating area.
If you're in the mood for some wine and live music, Five Walnut wine bar is the place to be. They offer $5 wine and have live music at 8 pm every night.
For those who enjoy craft beer, Hi-Wire Brewing is a must-visit. They have a wide selection of beer and a great atmosphere for hanging out with friends.
If you're in the mood for cocktails and delicious food, Curate, Sovereign Remedies and En Le Caille are excellent choices. They offer great drinks and food, perfect for a night out with friends.
Looking for some fun activities? Check out the Pinball Museum, where you can play vintage pinball machines. For music lovers, the Moog Museum offers tours and a chance to learn about the history of electronic music.
If board games are your thing, the Well Played Board Game Cafe is a great spot to visit. They have a large collection of games and a cozy atmosphere.
For book lovers, Malaprops Bookstore is a must-visit. They offer a wide selection of books and often host author events.
If you're in the mood for shopping, check out Old North, Minx, and Union for clothing options. For pottery enthusiasts, East Fork Pottery is a great place to shop for handmade pottery.
Downtown Asheville Condos
There are a lot of ways to live in downtown Asheville. There are several new construction buildings and buildings pending construction, as well as retrofit/conversion projects and luxury condos.
Just like the different neighborhoods of Asheville, each building has it's own flavor, quirks, and pros and cons.
I love to geek out on buildings in downtown Asheville. Along those lines, I recently built a repository of information about Asheville condo buildings, and below I'm sharing the downtown Asheville condos that I've researched.
Asheville Arras Residence
The Arras is Asheville's only high-rise building. It's a stunning building. I've personally toured 10-15 of the units in the building, and each one offers a unique view of Downtown Asheville and the surrounding mountains. Some of the residents live here year-round, but quite a few use them as second homes. Floors 10-18 are residences, while the bottom floors are a hotel. Living here makes sense if you want to live in a full-service building and want the best views Downtown Asheville has to offer.
17 North Market
17 North Market is one of the coolest condo buildings in Downtown Asheville. It's actually a really old building that was retrofitted/converted into condos. Brett Kreuger was the developer/builder on the project, and he created a unique industrial/steam-punk but luxury vibe with 17 North Market. I've seen every unit in this building except for the unit Brett holds as his personal residence, and each one is totally unique and one-of-kind. I love that this building is in the North quadrant of Downtown, just out of arms reach of most of the droves of tourists and wanderers.
The Broadway Asheville
The Broadway Asheville is a newer project of residential townhomes just a few steps North of Downtown Asheville. The units live like single-family residences rather than urban apartments / condos and are much larger than many of the properties you'll find in Downtown Asheville's urban core. The units are pretty impressive, and come with an attached garage, and rooftop deck. The only other residences in the Downtown area that are like the Broadway (but much different architecturally) are Bauhaus and Southside Townhomes.
The Haywood is a new luxury condo project currently under development right in the heart of Downtown Asheville, just next to the Harrah's Center. I think this building is in a good location.
Lexington Station Condos are located at 155 S Lexington Ave. Popular for being the first multi-story modular construction in Asheville, the project consists of three low-rise buildings with 66 residential units, 28,000 square feet of commercial space for restaurants, retail, and offices.
Bauhaus South Slope
There are 17 mid-rise contemporary townhouses at Bauhaus. These were completed in 2020 and are housed in three separate buildings. I really like the South Slope neighborhood, which really is an entity of it's own adjacent to the Downtown area.
The Fitzgerald Condominium
The Fitzgerald Condominiums are a contemporary collection of 26 luxury condominiums that overlooks a historic golf course adjacent to the Omni Grove Park Inn.
12 South Lexington Avenue Condominium
12 South Lexington is a quiet building, with a modern industrial style, located right in Downtown Asheville. The units vary pretty wildly in terms of size and appointments, with the penthouse/luxury units offering really incredible views of the Asheville skyline and surrounding mountains. Many of the residents don't live here year-round. Overall, this building is well run and has a good track record. You can't really get closer to the "middle of Downtown" unless you live at the Arras or Kress building.
The Pioneer Building
The Pioneer Building was built and developed by the same folks that built The Broadway. The building is 4 floors and includes 22 condo units. The feel is more arts and craftsy than anything, but in line with the architecture of the surrounding area. It's just a few minutes up the street from Downtown Asheville, so I included it on this list.
Clingman Lofts is kind of Downtown, kind of not, but I've walked so many times from Clingman to Downtown Asheville (and back again) that I thought it'd be worth it to include it on this list. The units themselves are a blend of arts and crafts architecture with a contemporary, industrial flair. Built-in 2008, these mid-rise condos probably more accurately described as being in the River Arts District (on your way to Downtown) and include units with 1-2 bedrooms. The units are also pretty affordable - in the high 200s to low 300s, which is really nice considering the location. I think these units are the best deal in Asheville condos right now.
21 Battery Park
21 Battery Park is steps from Asheville's "Wall Street" and is a 7-story mid-rise building featuring upscale condos, club room, and community roof deck.
Sawyer Motor Building
If you love industrial/conversion type condo projects (like 17 N Market), you'll probably like the units in this building. Dating back to 1925, the Sawyer Motor Building is one of the oldest conversion projects in Asheville. From its location on Coxe and Hilliard Avenues, this four-story condominium building offers residents a deluxe lifestyle right at the heart of downtown’s vibrant community.
The 4-story contemporary Southside Townhomes are located in a Asheville's South Slope neighborhood which is adjacent to . These units incorporate energy-efficient design with luxury amenities and a much sought short-term rental permit.
Constructed in 1894, Ardmion Park is one of the oldest converted buildings in Downtown Asheville. Formerly a supper club, this art deco condominium building offers residents a broad range of modern luxury amenities.
Twenty-One Haywood Street Condominiums
Located at the intersection between Haywood Street and Battery Park Avenue, 21 Haywood condos are one of Downtown Asheville’s premier residential developments. Built in 1899, this historic building has undergone extensive renovations and now houses 10 urban condos.
Sixty Haywood St Condominium
The Sixty Haywood St. Condominium building was constructed in 1930 and converted from the historic four-story Haverty Furniture Store into contemporary 15-unit luxury apartments in 1986.
55 South Market
Located just off Biltmore Avenue, right in the heart of Asheville, the condominium complex at 55 South Market is full of new luxury housing options with walking access to the best the city has to offer.
145 Biltmore Avenue Condominiums
145 Biltmore Ave Condos is a mid-rise in Asheville's South Slope neighborhood built in 2019. 145 Biltmore includes 34 luxury residences and 4 penthouse units featuring the largest collection of terraces in the Downtown area.
The Kress Condominium
The Kress Condominiums are located in the top 4 floors of the historic neoclassical and art-deco style 5-story Kress building in Downtown Asheville. They are conveniently situated in Asheville's heart center, surrounded by the glorious Blue Ridge Mountains.
60 North Market
Built-in 2008, 60 North Market Condos is a relatively recent mid-rise residential building located in downtown Asheville.
45 Asheland Avenue
Built in 2018, condos at 45 Asheland Avenue stand out among the historic buildings of downtown’s Asheville, where residents can experience impressive mountain views embedded within Asheville’s urban skyline.
Skyloft Condos were completed in 2008 and are 1-3 bedroom condos with a relatively modern build with a chic, contemporary flair. The units themselves range from 776 square feet to 1947 square feet and are in a Healthy Built Certified building.
The Aston Condominium
Located along 61 Church Street, The Aston is one of Downtown Asheville’s key historic buildings. Over a century after its construction, the mid-rise now houses a dozen luxury condominium units.
Pros and Cons of Living in Downtown Asheville, NC
The Cons of Living in Downtown Asheville: What You Should Know
Not many Jobs
As I'm sure you've read elsewhere, one of the worst things about Asheville is sparse number of local jobs. The service industry and healthcare / tourism probably make up around 60% - 70% of employment here, and they normally demand experience.
My advice would be that if you don't have a job you can bring with you, or you don't already have a position setup, it's probably best not to move here.
I've had several friends with masters and doctoral degrees struggle to find employment in their fields due to the lack of non-tourism and healthcare related industries.
The Unhoused Population
We have a population of unhoused individuals, and they make it on most lists of "cons" for Asheville.
As an aside, the real con here is that we still have not been able to solve this as a society. Homelessness is a societal issue that affects everyone, not just tourists or residents of downtown Asheville.
As in other areas of the US (perhaps also where you live now), there are many different opinions and perspectives on how to address homelessness in downtown Asheville, and the issue can be divisive.
The City of Asheville has responded with various measures, including (but not limited to):
The City has removed most all the benches on Haywood Street because of homeless people. There are still a few benches in front of the library, and a few around the parking garages. But a lot of them have been removed from Downtown.
In an effort to curb begging, the City has installed coin deposit boxes for donations to homeless people, but this doesn't really do anything to stem the homeless from loitering and soliciting money.
The high cost of living
Downtown Asheville is a popular place to live, and the cost of living can be higher than in other parts of the city or region.
The city has seen a significant increase in housing prices in recent years, and the cost of living is higher than in many other parts of Asheville and North Carolina. Many areas of the market increased by 20-30% in 2021 - and prices haven't gone back down.
Additionally, downtown Asheville is a popular tourist destination, which can drive up prices for everything from hotel rooms to meals at restaurants. I remember a few downtown hotels charging upwards of $800 per night during peak leaf peeping season last year. Incredible.
City noise - yes our City has this
I say this tongue in cheek. But for real: with all the restaurants, bars, and music venues, downtown Asheville can be noisy, especially at night.
If you're someone who values peace and quiet, there many be nights where you may find it difficult to get a good night's sleep downtown.
Additionally, some of the buildings in downtown Asheville are older and may not have good sound insulation, which can amplify the noise from the street.
Most of the hotels have adequately addressed this. But there are some residential buildings that are noisier than others.
I think perceived noisiness is also a matter of prior expectations and living experiences. If you're coming from the South End of Boston or lower Manhattan, you're probably going to think differently about the noise than if you're coming from North Central Florida or a suburb in Houston.
The parking situation
I really with that the City of Asheville would issue resident parking permits for use on street parking. If you're living Downtown, you've probably got access to deeded parking and parking for your guests, but that's not always the case.
Some buildings don't have guest parking, and buildings like the Kress don't have parking for residents or guests at all.
The Rankin Garage is available for paid parking, and there are also park mobile lots around the downtown area.
So, while downtown Asheville is walkable, parking can be difficult and expensive, especially during peak times.
I'm not a stranger to crowds (I used to live in Boston) and I've spent a considerable time in Manhattan. But the small size of the Downtown area relative to the large influx of tourists during leaf season or during the summer can be overwhelming (and annoying at times).
The crowds can make it difficult to get into breweries, bars, or restaurants. Make sure you put in reservations ahead of time.
The Pros of Living in Downtown Asheville, NC: What Makes It Special
Downtown Asheville is very pedestrian-friendly, so if you live or work there, you may not need a car to get around.
Downtown Asheville is a cultural hub with many art galleries, music venues, and restaurants.
Despite being a city, downtown Asheville is surrounded by the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
There are always events and festivals happening in downtown Asheville, from live music to food and beer festivals.