Big changes are coming to North Lexington and Rankin avenues in downtown Asheville, which may eventually include new restaurants, office spaces, condos, galleries, a courtyard and a terrace, reports property owner John Lantzius.
The local developer and his family own several properties in the area, including the massive 80,000–square–foot building at 49 N. Lexington Ave. that currently houses Lexington Park Antiques, clothing shops and other businesses. But many of the building’s units have been out of use for several years, and Lantzius says that’s about to change.
Renovations started a few months ago on the top floor, which is accessed via Rankin Avenue. Within six to eight months, he expects a new “creative center” to occupy the floor, consisting of office space for “architects, designers, people that are in creative businesses,” says Lantzius.
He adds: “This building is a pretty rough building. So it’s going to be a kind of industrial-looking space – stained concrete floors kind of thing and, you know, minimalistic space – but very interesting, with high ceilings and so on.”
Even in these hard economic times, Lantzius reports lots of interest from potential leasers.
“I’ve got all kinds of people stopping by wanting to know when it’s going to be finished,” he says. “I’ve got no problems there. All I’ve got to do is get it built.”
Along Rankin Avenue, he’s considering putting in a restaurant that could include an outdoor-seating area, similar to what the Rankin Vault Cocktail Lounge offers further south on the street.
“The sidewalks are going to have plants on them,” he explains.” We might have one small restaurant there, something kind of coming out in to the street. There’s going to be all kinds of exciting lighting. So it’s going to be a great improvement to the street.”
To help connect the area and the nearby Rankin parking garage to the heart of Lexington Avenue, Lantzius is planning to build a public walkway and small courtyard between the building and the Shady Grove Flowers shop. (The small garden that had previously occupied the space for over a decade was demolished Feb. 6.)
“I’m trying to connect Rankin to Lexington because both streets are so long. … And I’m going to make a nice courtyard, with hopefully an art gallery in the lower floor,” he explains. “It’s going to be nice plants and what have you. It’s going to be a nice little outdoor space.”
Lantzius adds: “It will also tie in nicely to the courtyard across the street where Boca is. The city has said they’ll put in a cross walk linking these two courtyards together.”
The courtyard adjacent to Bouchon and Crêperie Bouchon may also be on tap for renovations, says Lantzius. Although the property is owned by someone else, Lantzius reports that he heard a “metal roof structure” was under consideration. (Crêperie Bouchon is currently closed for renovations, according to the crêperie’s website.)
“A lot of action”
Meanwhile, up the road, at his property along the corner of North Lexington and Walnut Street, Lantzius says plans are in the works for a new outdoor terrace and restaurant. The space, which is across Walnut Street from The Southern Kitchen and Bar, most recently housed the Koi–Koi, an apparel and “lifestyle” shop, which recently went out of business (before that, it was Terra Nostra Decor).
“I’m going to make that into a really nice space — hopefully open it a little more and have a really nice terrace there,” Lantzius says. “There are quite a few people interested in that space too.”
Meanwhile, a bit further up the road, Lantzius reveals that the owners of the massive 35,000-square-foot building at 37 N. Lexington Ave. have big plans. Purchased in 2010 by Cleo River, LLC for $2.6 million, the developers are planning to put in “quite a few restaurants or stores up there,” says Lantzius. “Apparently they’re going to take the roof off the building and go up with condominiums. That’s big time stuff.”
Previously the home of Daniels Graphics and Daniels Communications, the long-dormant space lies between Tops for Shoes and the Lexington Avenue Brewery, which plans to expand its beer production facilities in the building. In recent days, several parking spaces along the street were roped off due to construction at the site.
“It’s been an empty block,” Lantzius observes. “Now, finally, we’re going to get a lot of businesses there.”
For Lantzius, the development plans are all part of his goal to make downtown Asheville a more livable — as in residential — community.
“One of the main things is, I’m trying to make Lexington Avenue and downtown so nice that everybody will live here downtown and won’t be building these little houses out in the countryside destroying the farms and the mountainsides,” he says. “We’re trying to get a lot of action down here. … I want to have a nice urban space.”
Photos by Jake Frankel, Bill Rhodes and Max Cooper