McKibbon will not develop city-owned Haywood Street property

An image of the proposed hotel project from the McKibbon Hotel Group.

The McKibbon Hotel Group will not develop city-owned property across from the Basilica of St. Lawrence. According to an announcement from the company, a lawsuit by other downtown hoteliers dragged on long enough that the project was no longer viable.

McKibbon Vice President Wes Townson notified City Manager Gary Jackson this morning that they were terminating their agreement with the city to develop the site, currently home to an abandoned parking garage, derelict commercial building and a parking lot.

“We’re not going to develop the property on Haywood Street because of the lawsuit filed in March of this year by the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, the Four Points by Sheraton Asheville and the Indigo Hotel Asheville,” company Chairman John McKibbon declared in the announcement. “We would have proceeded with the project had the lawsuit not been filed.”

“City staff will begin the process of reassessing opportunities for this valuable public asset,” Jackson wrote in a statement to Xpress. “This is a keystone property that is well positioned to create new opportunities and grow the city’s tax base. As we move forward, the Downtown Master Plan will be our roadmap. The plan is the result of two years of active public engagement and will be an integral part of our assessment. In the interim, we will move forward with removing the blighted structures on the property.”

The proposal for the 140-room hotel was controversial, with representatives of the Basilica and some local activists strongly opposing it, believing the site should be developed as a park or according to an alternative plan. But Asheville City Council, citing the need for more development of unused property in downtown, approved selling the property to McKibbon last September for $2.5 million. McKibbon had until Nov. 25 this year to make a final decision on whether or not to proceed.

Earlier this year, the hoteliers hit McKibbon with their lawsuit. While they failed to stop the project in court, and dropped the suit in September, the delay sent the company looking for other options.

“I believe the lawsuit lacked factual and legal basis and amounted to contractual interference,” McKibbon notes in the announcement. “However, knowing that the lawsuit could drag on for a year or more, we began to look for an alternative site. The delay also gave other developers an opportunity to get started on their projects before ours could begin.”

Specifically, McKibbon spokesperson Dave Tomsky noted plans for the Parks Hospitality Group to build a high-end hotel on the former Three Brothers restaurant site and local developer Tony Fraga’s proposal for a Cambria Suites Hotel at the intersection of Battery Park and Page Avenues. “Those two projects, in addition to the delay, were the crucial elements in [McKibbon’s] decision.”

McKibbon, meanwhile, is partnering with Tower Associates, owners of the BB&T building, to develop an upscale hotel there.

McKibbon is pressing for the other hoteliers to reimburse the company and the city for their legal fees.


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11 thoughts on “McKibbon will not develop city-owned Haywood Street property

  1. Jason W

    So now will the Basilica step in and develop the property, or are we going to have a crumbling parking lot there for another 20 years?

  2. Big Al

    Smells like a mob-style “hit” using a private contract assassin for plausible deniability. Now CoA can do what it likes, and the only resistance will be the Basilica. If McKibbon Group could not withstand the legal expense, I doubt the financially beleaguered church will be able to either.

  3. Jonathan Wainscott

    It should be given to the NEW art museum. Get out of pack square.

  4. sharpleycladd

    Tart it out with some public space funded by revenues from some parking, sell it in five years for $5 million.

  5. bsummers

    …OR, turn it into an investment in the City’s future – a park that will become the social center for that end of downtown. There are already 3 hotels planned within a few blocks to supplement the 3 or 4 already existing, but no green space of any size. For Asheville to continue to be a place that people want to live in and visit, it has to be more than a mini-Charlotte.

    Resist the urge to develop every last square foot of downtown, and preserve some green space. It will pay off more in the long run than just another hotel or condo block.

  6. boatrocker

    It’s weird, any time the phrase
    green space
    living wage
    affordable rental

    is used in connection with a new hotel du jour wanting to build downtown, some folks either clam up or counter with

    business opportunity

    Who are we supposed to believe?

    Call me wacky, but the root word of conservative is conserve, yes? Also, is vertical development always better than horizontal? Why grow simply for its own sake?

    Finally, why do all the digitally created representations of a new building lack homeless people and minorities? Are we to infer that they have been hunted to extinction or simply bussed to Greenville, SC?

    The graphics remind me of Grand Theft Auto for Gentrified White People.

    • hauntedheadnc

      Why grow simply for its own sake?

      Thing is, we’re not. Asheville is growing because people want to live, visit, and do business here. To grow for its own sake would be to keep building even as the city or metro is shrinking… as you’d find in cities like Cleveland, Detroit, or Youngstown.

      Also, in a downtown district, vertical development is most definitely better than horizontal. Space downtown is limited and should not be wasted on low-rise sprawl. If you want sprawl, there’s more than anyone can stand on Tunnel Road or Airport Road, and elsewhere. Keep building downtown the way it’s always been built: up, not out.

  7. bsummers

    “Space downtown is limited and should not be wasted on low-rise sprawl.”

    Agreed. And no one is suggesting that for this space. Using it for a park, which will pay dividends for generations, will not contribute to “sprawl”.

    The only people who wanted to put a hotel there have moved their capital over to the BB&T renovation. And several other new hotel proposals have sprung up within a two-block radius. We really don’t need another high-rise on one of the few preservable open spaces in downtown.

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