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North Carolina's Most Beautiful Mall!

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Here are some shots of the Grove Arcade Public Market in downtown Asheville, NC. Constructed in the 1920's, the Arcade was confiscated by the federal government during World War II, and all commercial tenants were evicted. All the streetlevel storefronts were bricked over and the colorful awnings that lined the streets were removed. For nearly fifty years the Grove Arcade served as a federal building until the new Federal Building was built on Patton Avenue and all the governmental tenants, including the National Climatic Data Center, relocated there.

At that point, the City of Asheville began planning to bring the Grove Arcade back to life. Originally intended to be the "heart of the city" by its builder, and even bedecked with hundreds of carved stone hearts to signify that fact, after extensive renovations and restorations, the Grove Arcade has reopened as the Grove Arcade Public Market and is once again one of the heartbeats of downtown Asheville. In addition to space for more than fifty stores, there is space for offices and on the top floor, forty two luxury apartments. The Arcade has been open in its original capacity as a shopping mall for a year. Forty apartments out of the forty two are rented, thirty eight out of fifty two store spaces are in use, and 7,000 square feet out of 25,000 square feet of office space is rented.

And now without further ado, let me introduce you to the most beautiful mall in North Carolina!


A hand-carved griffin, one of two at the north entrance to the building


A better view of one of the griffins.


A view of the interior, including one of the spiral staircases.


A view of the exterior, with colorful awnings, new plantings, and new streetlights.


Another look inside.


North entrance, with griffin, "Grove" flanked with hearts, and a typical downtown Asheville denizen (note bandanna/doo-rag)


Interior, taken by the Stall Market, a unique grocery store. A sure sign of downtown vitality is whether or not a city can support a downtown grocery store. The Arcade has unfortunately had trouble attracting a bakery, and fish and meat vendors, which together would help the Arcade compete against any supermarket. Fortunately for downtown dwellers, however, a full-service organic supermarket, complete with a meat department is located on the south side of downtown.

Ain't she a beaut' folks?

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Are you sure there wouldn't be anything there for you? The Grove Arcade is home to clothing stores, furniture stores, bars, restaurants, an ice cream shop, a store that sells fossils and furniture and knick-knacks made from minerals and fossils, a store that sells soap, a flooring and tile store, antique shops, a garden store, and a hell of a lot more!

The Arcade is meant to cater to locals as much as it does to tourists, but seems to attract more tourists... business is steady though, and I think even brighter days are ahead for this building! If you'd like some more info on what's available at the Grove, or if you'd like some more info on the architectural features (including the exact number of griffins, grotesques, gargoyles, ram's heads, and hearts), read the thread about the Grove Arcade in the Southeast Forum.

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The Arcade certainly is one of Asheville's architectural marvels. I kind of wish those spiral staircases were still in use, but I think liability concerns make that impossible so they are relegated to the status of decorations. There is also a ramp and staircase up to the roof from outside on either end of the arcade, indicating that the roof was once used for something, but it's fenced off today.

There was also supposed to be a 19 story tower on top of the arcade, but the stock market crashed and Grove died before construction could begin.

Back in middle school, my class did a bunch of projects about issues facing Asheville. This would have been around 1993. One group did a project about the I-26 connector. My group did a presentation on the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) that was a work-in-progress at the time. Another group did the Grove Arcade, another did the French Broad River park, and so on. Interesting to note that even 12 years later, these issues are still quite current.

Anyway, this was all before the National Climatic Data Center moved to the new Federal Building, and before the arcade passed into the city's hands in 1997. There were a number of options on the drawing board at that point. All of them involved restoring the arcade to a public market. One idea was to put an ice rink on top of the arcade; There was also talk of finding a developer to complete the project and build the tower since the substructure is still in place.

I remember thinking "Cool, another tall building downtown." If I only had made a mental note of whether or not the substructure is still sound from an engineering standpoint, and whether or not a complete set of architectural plans for the tower still exists. I guess I could get an answer with a quick e-mail to someone at the Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation, but, eh.

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That mall is incredible. How sweet would it be if Asheville could support an upscale fashion mall? That would be the perfect place to bring haute couture to NC!

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