But Grove did not live to see the completion of his final project, the Grove Arcade. Conceived in the early 1920s, Grove’s “city within walls” did not open until 1929, two years after Grove’s death.
Nevertheless, the historic structure fulfilled Grove’s expectations, bustling with business and commercial activity for 13 years.
Then, during World War II, the federal government took over the building, and it was closed to public use for a generation.
Eventually, the 269,000-square-foot building was restored to its former glory and function as a public marketplace. The historically renovated Grove Arcade reopened in 2002.
Today’s arcade boasts an exciting array of restaurants, specialty stores, regional arts and crafts and food markets, with offices on the mezzanine level and luxury apartments on the upper floors.
“The feedback has been extremely positive,” says Ruth Summers, executive director of the Grove Arcade. “Everyone is so happy that it’s become a mixed-use building, and we think it’s a good mix.”
According to the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, some 500,000 people a year walk by the corner of Battery Park Avenue and Page Avenue, where Carmel’s Restaurant and Bar serves up continental cuisine al fresco or in the romantic dining room inside the arcade.
“We were very happy when Carmel’s came in,” Summers says. “We ended up – not really by plan but kind of by accident – having this wonderful restaurant row starting with Carmel’s on Page Avenue. There’s a wonderful diversity of restaurants at all different price points.”
A few doors down, European-style SantÃ© Wine Bar features light fare and local and international wines by the glass or bottle. Patio seating at umbrella-covered tables makes it a favorite local hangout, Summers says.
In addition to 10 restaurants, the Grove Arcade has three food stores – a grocery, a fresh produce market and a cheese shop.
Specialty retail shops attract tourists and regulars alike. Everything from clocks and geological wonders to furniture, designer jewelry, apparel and custom-concocted bath products bring in customers in droves.
The Jazzy Giraffe upscale boutique has two storefronts in the arcade – one carries shoes and accessories, and the other carries exclusive women’s apparel. Owner Donna Wright says she gets her unique items from a number of international designers.
The arts, crafts, music and stories of the region are highlighted at the Grove Arcade ARTS and Heritage Gallery. Visitors can even watch area artists at work in the gallery’s studios.
Additional galleries throughout the arcade feature the distinctive works of local artisans.
Besides the selection of shopping and dining, the Grove Arcade building is a destination in itself. A look at the arcade’s Palladian-style architecture and Gothic ornamentation is alone worth the visit.
“We have a downloadable architectural tour that gives a little history of the building and some photographs,” Summers says. “Visitors can follow it for a self-guided tour.” (You can download the architectural tour at www.grovearcade.com.)
The reopening of the Grove Arcade has revitalized the Battery Hill area, bringing the former bustle of the last of the great shopping arcades back to its corner of downtown Asheville.
“The area has really come into its own,” Summers says.