The Ellington—a proposed hotel and condo high-rise on Biltmore Avenue—certainly has its detractors. Some say that at 23 stories, the structure would block mountain vistas, while others contend the massive scale of the “neo-deco” building is out of character with Asheville, not to mention the block the building would call home.
But to city officials whose input will play a big part in whether the structure ever gets the green light, the Ellington appears to be a winner so far.
In less than two weeks, the building—which would be developed by the Grove Park Inn and a handful of other investors (see “Welcome to the Ellington: A New High-rise for Asheville?” May 22 Xpress)—has been given a thumbs up by the Asheville Downtown Commission (with only one of its eight members, Julie Brandt, voting against it), as well as preliminary unanimous approval by the city’s Technical Review Committee.
Granted, though the approvals carry considerable weight, neither are binding. In addition to providing City Council with recommendations on matters relating to downtown, the Downtown Commission carries out design review on major development projects within the Central Business District. The TRC, meanwhile, reviews the technical aspects of a development project, namely traffic flow and impact, infrastructure needs, landscaping, and grading and erosion control, among other things.
The city’s interim planning director, Shannon Tuch, says the plans must still be approved by the city Planning and Zoning Commission, then ultimately the City Council, before the first dirt can be turned on the site at the corner of Biltmore and Aston avenues.
But while Brandt and some concerned residents see a white elephant looming on the horizon, most members of the Downtown Commission see the Ellington as a potential boon to the city.
As planned, the luxury “boutique” building would include approximately 48 condos, 125 oversized, upscale hotel rooms and four rooftop penthouses. On the ninth floor, where the hotel would end and the condos begin, there would be a restaurant, a bar, a pool and a terrace overlooking Asheville. To make the building more palatable, the developers also plan to incorporate green-building and -management practices in its construction and operation, as well as make it serve as a showcase for Asheville’s varied art scene. Further, the developers plan to dedicate millions of dollars from the building’s real-estate sales over 75 years to construct affordable housing in the city. What’s more, they add, the hotel would create 100 new jobs and generate an estimated $1.5 million in property taxes, $805,000 in sales taxes, and $320,000 in room taxes annually.
“I think this is a fantastic project,” said Downtown Commission member John Rogers. “It’s beautifully designed. Its impact on Asheville ought to be great.”