Nestled above Biltmore Avenue between McCormick Field and Memorial Stadium to the north, Mission Hospital to the south, and Beaucatcher Mountain to the east, Oakhurst is a small community of about 45 houses.
It is a neighborhood with stunning mountain views, and if plans move forward, it will one day enjoy direct access to the Beaucatcher Greenway. The greenway will start somewhere near the entrance to Memorial Stadium on Buchanan Place and wind through a wooded area to the top of Beaucatcher Mountain, where visitors will be able to see panoramic views of Asheville.
Planning for the development of the Oakhurst neighborhood began in 1923, and today it has approximately 150 residents who are both home owners and renters. These numbers, however, are about to drastically change. As of this month, Oakhurst is also home to a newly-completed 97-unit apartment building with 116 bedrooms and 106 parking spaces. As the population of Oakhurst is set to nearly double, the four narrow, steep, and mostly sidewalk-less streets of Oakhurst will be seeing a lot more action than they have ever seen before.
According to Mrs. Willie Mae Brown, a 52-year resident and one of the first African-Americans to move into the neighborhood, Oakhurst went from being a white neighborhood to a black neighborhood to the mixed neighborhood it is now. Mrs. Brown, recently named one of “20 women change makers who have shaped Western North Carolina and made Asheville what it is today,” by the Asheville Citizen-Times, also serves as the Parliamentarian on the year-old Oakhurst Neighborhood Association Board. She said that this is the first neighborhood association in the history of Oakhurst.
Without question, the challenges engendered by large scale development and construction provided the impetus for residents to organize. Semi-formal meetings began in 2016 to discuss not only the construction noises reverberating through the upper half of the neighborhood, but the traffic and pedestrian safety concerns that are likely to become all too real once the apartment building is fully occupied.
Oakhurst residents include restaurant owners, managers and wait staff; small business owners, a music writer, social workers, doctors and nurses, an accountant, and many others. They dream about the day when the grassy park on Buchanan Avenue and Buchanan Place, currently used exclusively as a parking lot when sporting and other events take place in the neighborhood, will one day be a place where neighbors meet up for potlucks, to play with their kids, and to enjoy the fruits of their labor in a community garden. Oakhurst neighbors also look forward to having more crosswalks in the area so they can safely walk to the other side of Biltmore on their way downtown or to the South Slope, which is getting closer to Oakhurst by the day.
Fittingly, the mission statement of the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association is:
Individuals coming together for the common good of their neighborhood to promote a safe, serene, and viable community by managing growth, and development while promoting green space.
(Written by the City of Asheville.)
(Image by the City of Asheville.)