Altamont property owners counter theater operators’ claims

In response to a press release from the operators of The Altamont Theatre on Sept. 21, building owners Brian and Tiffany Lee released a statement on Sept. 23:

Contrary to the false implications in the Press Release issued by the current operators of the
Altamont Theatre, the structure at 18 Church Street is not being razed. In fact, in 2010 we
completed a full renovation of the building from its abysmal condition, which included a nearly
collapsing roof. The project was a green renovation and qualified for LEED Silver designation.
Those changes including rooftop solar panels for hot water, are not obvious because we worked
hard to preserve the historic character of the building.

Our renovation included building out the first floor as a black-box theatre. While searching for a
name, Tiffany’s father, an Asheville native and lover of literature suggested the name Altamont,
for the fictitious name Thomas Wolfe gave to Asheville in his novel Look Homeward Angel.
Sadly her father passed away not very long after that and never saw the renovation completed.
This structure is a part of us, and has played a significant role in our lives. The statement we
made by combining new technology and efficient resource usage while preserving the historic
character of the building reflects our core values. We not only put money into this project, but
we poured our hearts and souls into it. The current controversy speaks to the work we did
because it appears a number of people are unaware of the renovation we undertook. It looks
like an interesting old building.

The renovation yielded not only our primary goal, the theatre, but a nice side benefit – a way to
insure the income on the building, short-term vacation rentals. This was before the advent of
AirBnB and the current controversy in Asheville. We had some of the only units downtown for a
long time. We designed the rental units with that in mind and they are geared towards that. So
we have quietly been operating that business for nearly seven years.

Now in 2017 we must make the difficult and somewhat personal decision to bring part of what
we created to an end. The theatre holds great sentimental value for us and converting the
space is most certainly an emotional decision. Sadly the process of ending the theatre space
we created is being mired in controversy.

We recognize that the Short Term Rental issue in Asheville is controversial and complex.
Ultimately it falls to City Council to find a compromise and workable solution for all the various
points of view around this contentious issue. In our case, we are not cynically closing
something we created to cash in on a new and popular business, although the change has been
painted that way. The original renovation was a significant investment. Since then the short
term rental business has carried the building financially. For us the most prudent course of
action is to unify the useage of the building in the most productive manner.

We plan to preserve the character of this great old building and hope it remains a fixture

Brian and Tiffany Lee

About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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