Asheville’s Technical Review Committee unanimously gave preliminary approval to a massive redevelopment proposed for downtown’s Haywood Park area July 21. The TRC approval came with certain conditions, however.
Plans for the megaproject, which would fill up much of the block between Page Avenue and Haywood Street, include a 100-unit high-rise condominium tower; a 200-room, 23-story hotel; 42,000 square feet of office space; 80,000 square feet of retail space; and 506 parking spaces.
Developer Tony Fraga would retain the current Haywood Park Hotel (at the corner of Battery Park Avenue and Haywood Street) and the neighboring Starnes Building, the ground level of which houses True Blue Art Supply and The Chocolate Fetish. But the Haywood Building—which currently houses the Flower Gallery, Ariel Gallery and The Bier Garden, among other businesses—would be demolished, as would the structure at the corner of Page and Battery Park avenues. The parking garage behind the Haywood Building would also be demolished.
The TRC is legally empowered to consider only technical issues—not factors such as the development’s impact on rents or surrounding businesses. Then-Interim Planning Director Shannon Tuch, who chairs the committee, repeatedly emphasized this point during the meeting in response to comments by both Fraga’s representatives and members of the general public, including many downtown residents.
The development must still go before the Planning and Zoning Commission before being taken up by City Council, probably this fall.
The principal condition the TRC placed on the project was that the developer find a way—probably covered sidewalks—to preserve pedestrian access to existing businesses.
“If any street really carries a lot of pedestrians, it’s Haywood—and it carries them on both sides of the street,” noted city Traffic Engineer Ken Putnam.
“People can feel confident that we’ll keep pedestrian and vehicular traffic open there,” responded project architect Chris Eller.
During the public-comment period, downtown resident Dottie Stickney said she’s concerned about the effect the development might have on the surrounding area.
“The downtown in Ocala, Fla., includes a similar project in their downtown,” said Stickney. “You can go downtown and find that the buildings have been demolished; there are piles of sand and cement; [and] the developers went bankrupt. This is a big development going on here, and we haven’t heard anything about the developer’s financial situation, about where all the money is coming from for the project.”
In response, City Attorney Bob Oast said that although the TRC cannot consider the developer’s financial condition, both the Downtown Commission (which approved the project 6-2 earlier in July) and City Council would be monitoring such matters.
To view the plans for the proposed development, go to www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles.