“King Kong building” passes one more go

The Ellington, a 23-story “boutique” hotel proposed for a site fronting on Biltmore Avenue, Aston Place and South Lexington Avenue, received unanimous approval from Asheville’s Planning and Zoning Commission at its Aug. 1 monthly meeting.

On deco: The Ellington Hotel, whose style is labeled neo-deco by its architect, could become Asheville’s tallest building if current plans are approved by City Council.

The high-rise, which may become the tallest building in the Asheville skyline (rivaling the BB&T building), had previously been approved by the city’s Technical Review Committee, the Asheville Downtown Commission and the city’s Planning Department. P&Z members heard from representatives of the Houston-based development company, Beck Group; the chief architect and a spokesperson for the Grove Park Inn, which is a principal partner in the project; and a handful of concerned citizens, as well. Public comment ranged from total opposition—principally due to the massive scale of the building and potential traffic problems—to enthusiastic support for its contribution to density, the arts, the economy and the “vibrancy” of downtown.

An artist’s rendering offered by the developer suggests that the building will appear to be about as tall as the BB&T building, but opinions differ on this matter. The proposed structure is about 5 feet taller than the BB&T, but the site it would be built on is lower in altitude.

Asheville resident Robert Malkin insisted that, based on elevation figures he cited, the Ellington would stand much taller than the BB&T. He called it a “King Kong building.”

Downtown resident and business owner Kim MacQueen argued in favor of the project, saying that “downtown density is our best defense against sprawl.” She added the suggestion that hotel rooms and condos would provide more customers for local businesses.

The developers have pledged they will contribute 1.25 percent of the first-sale price of any properties and .5 percent of subsequent sales to the Community Foundation for support of work-force housing projects in Asheville. P&Z members and the city’s planning staff asserted that this is the first development project here to include such funding, estimated by the developers to amount to approximately $1.5 million in the first five years.

The Ellington proposal will next be reviewed by City Council.

About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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