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Ask Matt ... about exodus of national retailers

Q. We’ve lost the Hallmark store, K-Mart, Bi-Lo and now JCPenney. Options to spend our dollars in Henderson County keep dwindling. Why can’t we keep big-name retailers?

Add Food Lion and rue21 to the list. I tossed this question to Chamber director Bob Williford, who said that these retailers are experiencing viability problems on a national scale. Williford quickly wheeled off two dozen retail shops that have opened their doors in Henderson County in recent years. Here is a sample from his list plus a couple I added: Dunham’s Sporting Goods, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Shoe Dept. Encore, TJ Maxx, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, PetSmart and Hallmark (inside ACE Hardware). Plus, we know Publix, Dollar Tree, and AutoZone are coming.
You mentioned two Blue Ridge Mall anchor stores. There may never have been a time since the mall opened in 1983 when all the store fronts were rented. There are legitimate reasons. Many chain stores had franchise rules which required a 30-mile separation, so our initial mall stores were “second tier.” The mall took a big hit in the early 1990s from Biltmore Square mall and there is ongoing competition with a robust Downtown Hendersonville. Also, the mall lacks an easy “back door” vehicle access and it has poor line-of-sight visibility from Four Seasons Boulevard. Finally, we keep building those pesky strip malls and we do like shopping online. Indoor malls are aging out. Folks prefer shopping and dining at town centers like Biltmore Town Park and sitting at home in their jammies cruising the Amazon.

Q. Is there a comprehensive list of 55 and older communities in Henderson County that have homes for sale?

No. There is no such “official” list. First of all, the term “55 and over” refers to the 1995 US Housing for Older Persons Act that defines how a housing community, often condominiums, may market themselves. To be a legitimate older community, 80 percent of the units must have at least one person living there who is older than 55 years of age. Verification of age must be done every two years. Under the law, if one member of the family (not a child) is over 55, the spouse can be younger. So technically, a development can have more than half its residents under 55. That’s a lot of trophy wives (OK, trophy husbands too).
As baby boomers age, many developers see an advantage in using the term “55 and over” but some communities that don’t meet HUD’s 80/20 rule use the term “active adult housing” or “senior living” in their marketing. My cursory research of Henderson County yielded only one true 55 and over age restricted community that offered homes for sale — Riverwind subdivision in Etowah. I found two in Asheville (Bella Vista and Crowfields). Although rare, existing condos or subdivisions, can change to a 55-plus community if they possess the legal authority in their covenants.

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