It sure beats a hole in the ground

Now that the Council meeting drama is over and the McKibbon group won the right to build a hotel on the blighted property across the Basilica of St. Lawrence, I was left with the following observations.

It is pretty obvious from the lack of attendance from the Kessler group that the Basilica had at best a passing conversation with him to build anything on that site in our lifetime. Instead they wanted control of the property, but only after the city has absorbed the liability of tearing down the existing condemned structures. I am pretty sure we would have ended up with the last thing our tightly packed central business district needs: more surface parking.

The property is sandwiched between two former hotels now used for low-income elderly care; the new hotel will bring some needed age and income diversification to this part of town.

The view from the Basilica to a vibrant development will be much improved compared to what churchgoers now see, while thousands of locals and guests who currently only glance at the Basilica driving by can enjoy the architecture in comfort. I hope the church will do the right thing both for the community and the Basilica by working with the city to straighten Page Avenue. This will allow a larger public plaza with the added bonus of removing some asphalt and cars from the view.

Maybe our lesson from the approved (but never built) giant Ellington project is that small hotels are best for Asheville. Personally I like the Aloft; it makes a nice urban corridor for that side of Biltmore Avenue. But whatever opinions about its architectural merits, it sure beats a hole in the ground surface parking lot and the Hot Dog King for fiscal contributions to the city.

— Steve Woolum
Asheville

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