Getting a tour of the Whiteaker from a resident was definitely valuable in getting to the core of the community, although it came with its own set of challenges. For one, it taught me is that the Mt. Pisgah Mushroom Festival is quite popular among inhabitants of the Whiteaker (also colloquially called “the Whit”). The first part of our chilly morning was filled with discovering this fact, as plans with potential tour guides unraveled due to the event. We took it as an opportunity to walk around the neighborhood and talk to people about what was on their minds — what they love about the Whit, what they are most proud of and their concerns.
While there are stories of crime in the area, there seems to be sense of acknowledgment in the community that things are better than they used to be. Despite the reports of bike theft, and the graffiti that seems to be a common vexation for businesses, it is a long way from the drug overdoses and violence that seem to have been more prevalent ten years ago. Long-time residents say that the businesses seem to be doing better, which is in turn spurring more development in the neighborhood, as well as an influx of new businesses like the Pizza Research Institute.
It was also interesting to see that different residents had a different idea of what physical space qualified as part of the neighborhood. Instead, they mostly identified the Whiteaker as an attitude or identity held by certain businesses, which was not strictly dependent on their physical location. Example: the Keystone Café on 5th and Lawrence St., which technically one block south of the neighborhood’s official boundary, but still considered a part of the neighborhood. What makes a neighborhood is obviously more than physical space allocations. It’s something that permeates these borders, and lets someone know when they’ve found home, as so many people we talked to had.