Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Home Travel New downtown Asheville hotel OK’d as nearby historic district grows

New downtown Asheville hotel OK’d as nearby historic district grows

by Staff

ASHEVILLE – A new 6-story hotel is set to join the row of hotels on Haywood Street and Carter Street in downtown Asheville, making it the newest in a string of hotels to come to the area.

The new Courtyard by Marriott was unanimously approved during the March 6 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, where commissioners and city staff noted how collaboration between city committees and the building architect’s developed a “much better project” than the initial application.

The approval process, which included multiple visits to the Design Review Committee, had a great deal of focus on the activation of Haywood Street through the inclusion of multiple entrances, including planters and discussion of “the feel of this building as it is integrated with our downtown,” City Planner Clay Mitchell said during the meeting.

Commissioner Byron Greiner believed the repeated visits to the committee paid off.

“Watching the design review committee work with the architects and the developers,” Greiner said, “it’s great to see them work in tandem.”

The new hotel will rise to six-stories with 115 rooms and an underground parking area. The top of the building will host a restaurant and bar, according to development plans.

The developer will pay a $67,375 fee-in-lieu for not providing the required tree canopy for the development, City Planner Clay Mitchell said.

A discussion of the hotel’s approval, however, did bring in a question of the city’s regulation process.

As the public benefits table will require the developer to donate an estimated $724,500 to the affordable housing or reparations fund, Commissioner Jared Wheatley wondered whether a developer could get approved for more rooms would’ve pursued development on the half-acre site.

Height and acreage of hotels may also factor into the process. Commissioner Geoffrey Barton noted that current regulations may be “creating smaller buildings on limited lot areas,” a regulatory measure he suggested could create “a demand for more hotel sites, rather than fewer hotel sites that can accommodate more rooms.”

Hotel make neighbors with historic buildings

While tourists walk toward Patton Avenue from the series of hotels, they may also notice a series of historical churches, homes and industrial buildings amid the flurry of new development. They are there intentionally — and the owners intend for them to stay there.

In the past few years, Ohio-based GBX Group LLC, in collaboration with the Preservation Society of Asheville Buncombe, has placed preservation easements on several historic buildings that sit between North and South French Broad Avenue and Grove Street, most recently establishing one on the former church currently housing Echo Mountain Recording Studio.

Preservation easements are designed to protect cultural resources so that quick alterations are not allowed on the properties, where the “donor” of the property will receive tax benefits from the easement, though a developer is prevented from modifying some aesthetic elements of the building.

Of the over 100 properties GBX has placed under historical preservation in the U.S., GBX Development President of Community Development Antonin Robert said Asheville’s feature “longest period of significance.”

“It’s emblematic of what has happened in Asheville. You’ve got these late 1800s downtown buildings surrounded by what was a residential area, then you have the beginning of suburbanization turning the residential area around into semi-industrial,” Robert said.

Hotels have sprouted up in the western half of Asheville’s downtown hotel overlay, where a large swath of land is set aside for hotels small and large. Per plans submitted to the city of Asheville, a total of six could eventually live between Carter Street and Haywood Street.

In this area of downtown, the inclusion of historical buildings amid the flurry of new development will improve walkability and maintain neighborhood character, Robert said.

“By having protected some of these assets, we know were going to contribute to maintaining a higher walkability score than if that became just six hotels back-to-back with nothing else,” Robert said.

The church at 14 North French Broad, the current home of Echo Mountain Recording Studio, is one of two of churches preserved by GBX in the district. The other is located at 16 S. French Broad.

Preservation easements for church buildings pose a challenge, as the buildings are often architecturally significant and former hearts of communities but might not have interiors that will see perfect preservation, Robert said.

As such, a preservation easement is placed on the outside the building, while the adaptive reuse of the interior allows for new uses, PSABC Director of Historic Preservation Amanda Moore said.

“One of the easements that we got last December is now a recording studio,” Moore said of Echo Mountain Recording. “That’s a great example of something that was built normally with great acoustics being used as something that is a great fit into this building that’s important to the community.”

The historic preservation efforts have also led to two historic homes at 25 and 19 S. French Broad Ave. being converted into boutique hotels. The oldest of the homes — currently visible in its bright yellow — was built in 1905. Robert noted the homes were too large to be reconverted to single-family residences and won’t include

The 10 buildings are primarily located in a 2011 boundary increase for the Downtown Asheville Historic District, where Moore noted they’re almost “forming their own district within a National Register district.”

“As the rest of the neighborhood changes, this is will always be a little snapshot of what Asheville was like,” Moore said of the buildings in the area.

More: Asheville Amtrak plan seeks around 250K in funding; advocates to look for sponsors

More: Answer Man: Asheville faces highest rent in NC; How much funding for affordable housing?

Will Hofmann is the Growth and Development Reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Got a tip? Email him at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Copyright ©️ All rights reserved. | Tourism Trends