Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: What is going on with the section of empty Biltmore Village shops near the Wayside Grill — the old barber shop and the old Compleat Naturalist shop? It is sad to see them empty and trashed. It is such an eyesore now. Is anyone going to ever restore them?
My answer: Slightly off topic, but one of my bucket list dreams is to one day successfully navigate the Biltmore Village intersection of Boston Way, Biltmore Plaza and Kitchin Place, without making another motorist want to kill me. So many streets coming together and veering off in various directions! What can you do but punch it and hope for the best?
Real answer: I’ve got to say the description of the buildings looking “trashed” might be a bit harsh. Located at 2-6 Brook Street (which turns into Sweeten Creek Road), these properties are empty and a little sad looking, but I’ve seen a lot worse around these parts.
And property owner Debbie Word, founder and owner of the Chemist Spirits on Coxe Avenue, has good news about the site.
“They are historic buildings, so we have been working with the Historic Resources Commission,” Word told me. “We are renovating them and bringing them up to code for our next location for the Chemist.”
It will be the second location for the Chemist, a distillery and bar on the South Slope, but Word said it’s going to take some time. For the past year she’s been working through the design and permitting process to get everything lined up.
“I’m not even going to put a time on it because every time I put a time on it, it doesn’t happen,” Word said. “But we’re hoping to get construction going in the near future, and hopefully sometime next year we will open.”
The permit on file with the city of Asheville states the existing buildings from 2-6 Brook Street will be fully renovated, and a corridor constructed to connect the two buildings. The site will include a retail component with an office and display area, a small tasting bar, a small lounge with a bar and prep areas, and two apartments on the second floor of 2 Brook St, according to permits.
Word said the upstairs space may be rented as office space. The buildings previously contained three businesses: the Compleat Naturalist gift shop, the barber shop, and an interior design and furnishings business.
“The building that the Compleat Naturalist and the barber shop were in will be one aspect of the business,” Word said. “We are going to connect the two buildings — they’re only about three feet apart — and we’re going to have a walkway from one building to the other. The other side will be a speakeasy.”
The project will have “much the same vibe” as the original Chemist location, she added.
The other building, which held the design studio, is a historic Richard Sharp Smith design.
“That was the original post office in Biltmore Village that was built by George Vanderbilt when he was still around,” Word said, referring to the Biltmore Estate founder. “That is the more historic building of the two. We’re being very sensitive to trying to retain all the historic aspects of both buildings.”
Word, who bought the property last summer, said she’s “huge into historic preservation,” and that’s been contributing to the project’s slowness.
“That’s the other reason this is taking so long, because I didn’t want to just tear it down and put something modern in there.”
Buncombe County property and tax records show the buildings comprise about 4,000 square feet and were built in 1927. The properties, located on .23 of an acre, have an appraised tax value of $718,900.
Question: A few years ago, my wife and I purchased some wooded land behind our house within Asheville city limits. While walking out there one day, I discovered the road sign shown in this photo (A “Bump” sign). I assume it was swiped by a rapscallion and dumped on the property ages ago. The previous owner had a long-running problem with teenage trespassers. I dragged it home, intending to either discard it or return it to the city. My wife tucked it under our outdoor bar. She likes it, and wants to keep it. I say we’re probably breaking the law. Also, it really harshes the tiki bar vibe I’ve got going. If I wanted to return it, how would I do so? Is it against the law to keep it? I’d hate to have the city show up one day and fine me. I can’t bear the thought of being branded a rapscallion myself, let alone a miscreant or hooligan.
My answer: If the vibe is harshed, the decision is already made for you, young Jedi. The “Bump” must be dumped, lest you risk miscreant status.
Real answer: Yep, you’re a lawbreaker.
“I hate to put a ‘bump’ in the relationship, but it seems your writer is right on this one,” City of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller told me via email. “His wife may need to give up her sign. Maybe the writer’s new ‘non-harshed’ Tiki vibe will win her over.”
I like it when officials get in the spirit of the question. Here’s Miller’s reasoning.
“It seems the sign could be the property of either NCDOT or the City of Asheville,” she said. “Either way, we understand these signs are sometimes found in the wild and people just aren’t sure what to do with them. Residents can return property like this to either NCDOT or the City of Asheville. Both organizations will either reuse or recycle the sign.”
You can return the sign to the Transportation Department at City Hall if that’s most convenient.
“And don’t worry, there’s no APB out for the ‘Bump sign Bandits’ — just go ahead and return it, no questions asked,” Miller said.
The NCDOT helped out with this question, too. In all seriousness, the city and DOT “discourage folks from stealing or defacing roadway signs as these are installed for a specific purpose. When signs are defaced or stolen, it is an expense for them to be replaced and takes time from other important maintenance activities.”
It is also worth noting that it is illegal, according to state statute to “willfully deface, damage, knock down or remove any sign,” or to have such a sign in your possession.
Unharsh your bar vibe, my friend.
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