Condo owners living on the 14th floor of the Arras Residences will soon enjoy a floor-to-ceiling view of downtown Asheville and the surrounding mountains.
Hotelier John McKibbon predicts the massive 18-story project, which is filling the shell of the former BB&T building on Pack Square, will be complete by the end of March next year.
The building will have plenty of space for visitors, including a 128-room hotel and 54 condos, but those involved in the development of the Arras see it as more than a place for people to rest their heads.
“The public library on Haywood has a lot of great old pictures of Asheville downtown in the late 1700s, 1800s and even the early 1900s that [show] this was literally the center of town,” says Peter Pollay, who owns the restaurant Posana on Pack Square with his wife, Martha. “This is where everyone met.”
The Pollays will be leasing space on the ground floor for Bargello, which will specialize in Mediterranean food, and a yet-unnamed bar. Peter Pollay anticipates about 115 employees will handle the food and beverage service.
McKibbon, the head of McKibbon Hospitality, hosted tours throughout the day on Sept. 27 for local media, showing off models for two hotel room options — the standard and the suite — and one of the building’s condominiums.
Hotel rooms have 10-foot ceilings, and McKibbon says they have been designed to incorporate elements of the natural world — including wood floors and tile that mimics mica. “It’s a contemporary hotel, but then you still bring in the colors and the materials that you would find in nature,” McKibbon said. He hopes guests will see their rooms as a “haven.”
“Asheville is a very vibrant city, lots of music and fun things to do, but then if you want to get away from it and get back to your haven, that’s what we try to do,” McKibbon said. “Very comfortable, warm colors, but very high-tech as well.”
The rooms also feature local artwork, and McKibbon estimates about 15 to 20 local artists will be represented in the hotel once it’s complete.
Of the building’s 54 condos, four remain available. McKibbon says about half of the units have gone to locals. “Most of our condos are purchased by couples, really mainly empty-nesters,” he says. The condos range in price from about $550,000 to $2 million.
When Asheville City Council approved the project in January 2016, two Council members, Brian Haynes and Keith Young, voted against the development, fulfilling campaign promises each had made to curtail what some see as out-of-control growth in Asheville, particularly among hotels.
“That was a little bit of a shocker,” McKibbon said on Sept. 27. The project, he said, will employ local workers and bring the city a lot of revenue in the form of property taxes.
During the 2016 Council meeting, McKibbon also promised to pay full-time employees a living wage, to make a sizable investment in the city’s affordable housing trust fund and to improve and widen the sidewalks around the building, promises he now says McKibbon Hospitality is keeping or has kept.
“I’m not sure what the negatives would be,” he said.