Big changes coming to Lexington and Rankin avenues

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.

Big changes coming to Lexington and Rankin avenues

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.”

Big changes coming to Lexington and Rankin avenues

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.)

Big changes coming to Lexington and Rankin avenues

“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.”

Big changes coming to Lexington and Rankin avenues

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.)

Big changes coming to Lexington and Rankin avenues

“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.”

Big changes coming to Lexington and Rankin avenues

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.”

Big changes coming to Lexington and Rankin avenues

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


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11 thoughts on “Big changes coming to Lexington and Rankin avenues

  1. Kipper

    It will be interesting to see if any of the residential units being built will actually be in a price range that the greater majority of the asheville populace can afford.

    I fear that they’ll be aiming towards potential condo owners, or a demographic who can afford to have a rental property in downtown in conjunction with a home in another area.

    I’m already concerned for the impending complaints regarding urban noise, festivals, or even shows at established venues that these residential units may bring if the occupants are not well adjusted towards the current downtown night life and so forth.

  2. JOHN-C

    We need more living space for lower-income people… It shouldn’t be just the rich that get to live on Lexington… Especially when it’s the creative/art community that made the street what it is…

    • bill smith

      The ‘lower income living spaces’ disappeared when all you ‘artists’ showed up in 03.

      Oh, and you did not ‘make’ any street what it is. Investors and developers did, and you merely played a roll for them.

  3. hauntedheadnc

    “Gentrification of this cool stretch is going to harm it.”

    Renovation does not necessarily equal gentrification. Most of the space talked about in this article is currently going unused. What would you suggest they do rather than the proposed plan?

  4. Lamont Cranston

    Developers always create for a profit. Don’t expect anything driving this motive to produce any affordable living areas/housing as it’s all about the R.O.I. (Return On Investment). Retail and restaurants have always been a good source of rental income, and isn’t that what Asheville is all about: Tourism, and accommodating the needs of those with money that visit, and those that can still afford the

  5. tacostacos

    In addition, Second Gear will be opening a new store at the corner of Lexington and Walnut. Not so sure that consignment used camping gear counts as “gentrification of the cool stretch.”

    Lexington Ave is definitely the most “Asheville-like” part of downtown, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Izzy’s, TV Eye, Downtown Books and News, etc. etc. etc. keep the edge alive. Up scale places like The Southern and Mela are still fun and interesting – far from stuffy. High end business doesn’t mean death of the culture. It just means more money will be walking down that street and might drop some cash into the other smaller shops.

    Now, if Subway or Urban Outfitters moved in on Lexington, that’s a different story.

  6. bill smith

    The whines about ‘affordable housing’ seem absurd. Who will pay for this ‘affordable housing’? A benevolent billionaire? Investors need a return on their investments.

    Asheville WAS affordable before all the hipsters and other faux artists moved in.

    You want affordable? Move to Gafney, or Spartanburg, or Jackson Co.

  7. Eric hawes

    Ooh ooh my lazntius! Please check out permaculture or consult with someone who is trained as a permaculture designer! It is the practice of making human designs off patterns in nature and it really helps and expands our ability to create spaces the work well for humans as well as other life! It really changes our perspective as humans on how to meet our needs, especially in urban areas! If you are in charge of the vision of such a large project, I kindly oblige you to do some research that will be fun and gratifying, as it deepens our ability to listen, to see patterns in nature, and make effective and long lasting designs that improve quality of life!

  8. TF

    I think this new development is great. Yes the condos/apartments will not be cheap. But the last thing we need is gov’t subsidizing housing when there is no tax money to begin with. Devolopment of downtown over suburbs is always good.

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