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 the city of Asheville’s Planning and Zoning Commission at its meeting Wednesday night.
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, as well as a handful of concerned citizens. 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 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 five feet taller than the BB&T, but the site it would be built on is lower.
The hotel would include 125 rooms, a small banquet hall and a restaurant. Developers say their intent is to encourage guests to patronize other Asheville restaurants and businesses, hence the limited food service on-site. Upper floors will contain approximately 50 condominiums, including a 6,000-square-foot penthouse.
The developers have pledged they will contribute a portion of the sale of properties to the Community Foundation for its support of work-force housing projects in the city. The first sale of any condominium or the hotel will tithe 1.25 percent of the sale price for that purpose, and subsequent sales will contribute .5 percent. P&Z members and the planning staff asserted that this is the first development project in the city 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.
— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer