Locals heap scorn on proposed 95 Broadway development

Rendering of the proposed 95 Broadway Hotel & Condos
TALL ORDER: The proposed 95 Broadway Hotel & Condos, which would bring a seven-story building with 30 guest rooms, 25 parking spots and seven condos to the corner of Broadway and Woodfin, met broad opposition at a Sept. 6 community meeting. Screen capture from the city of Asheville

Most community meetings about development projects, observed Chris Day of Civil Design Concepts, are a little different from the Sept. 6 session in the Pack Memorial Library auditorium. Most meetings don’t end with an attendee calling out, “All right, everyone get your pitchforks!”

About 80 residents gathered to discuss 95 Broadway Hotel & Condos, a seven-story development of 30 guest rooms, 25 parking spots and seven condos proposed by property owner Victor Foo. Not a single attendee spoke in favor of the project, with criticisms ranging from practical concerns over parking to philosophical worries over the ongoing gentrification of Asheville.

Owners and employees at businesses on nearby North Lexington Avenue argued that a large boutique hotel would be out of character for a neighborhood of what one commenter called “tattoo shops and dive bars.” In the words of Steve Mann, co-owner of The Lazy Diamond bar directly adjacent to the proposed site, “I love the Lazy Diamond people, but if I’m going to spend $300 a night on a hotel, I do not want to be next to that bar.”

Mann and others said that hotel guests could have a chilling effect on the area’s music scene if they regularly call the police with noise complaints. An attendee identifying himself only as Zero, who said he works at a boutique hotel, recounted how Strada Italiano, a restaurant across the road, recently attempted to revitalize its business by adding live music events.

That got shut down after three months,” Zero said. “They were unable to revamp that project because of the complaints that came out of the hotel that I work at. At best it’s negligent, and at the least it’s predatory, in preying on the businesses around you.”

Ashley Graber, owner of Superstition Boutique on Commerce Street, added that building more hotels in the area would directly dilute the city’s attraction to visitors. “North Lexington Avenue has been the last stronghold of what makes Asheville Asheville,” she said. “Whether we want it or not, tourists love that.”

Additional complaints centered on the community engagement process itself. Casey Campfield, owner of The Crow & Quill bar, said that only property owners were notified of the developer’s first meeting on July 9, not occupants. A total of eight owners attended that first event; in a summary submitted to city staff after the meeting, Civil Design Concepts wrote, “Neighbors thought the plan was better than existing conditions and liked the overall project.”

Campfield, joined by several members of his bar’s Service Workers in Solidarity union, claimed that initial failure to notify nearby tenants had already placed the developer out of compliance with city ordinances. “I personally am going to show up at every meeting and bring more and more people to fight this,” he said.

One attendee evaluated the developer’s notice to the wider public, consisting of a single small sign on the proposed site, as “some Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy bullshit.” Another said that without the efforts of busking advocate and recent City Council candidate Andrew Fletcher, who posted flyers about the meeting, many of those in the crowd would have been unaware.

Day pointed out that this community meeting was only the first step in a lengthy process. The project must pass through the city’s Technical Review Committee, Downtown Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission before facing a final vote from City Council, which he estimated would take place in four to five months.

“I am not here to be the mouthpiece. I am here to understand the bigger picture of what this conversation was,” Day said. “I am not the avenue to convey this.”


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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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19 thoughts on “Locals heap scorn on proposed 95 Broadway development

  1. SpareChange

    Question: Given the overall weakness of local governments in NC, how much authority does the city bureaucracy or council actually have over these projects? In January 2017 the council voted unanimously to disapprove the hotel project at the intersection of Haywood and Montford. Several months later the NC court ruled against the city, allowing for the project to proceed. While I understand and at least partly agree with some of the objections raised by some of the surrounding businesses, isn’t the city severely constrained in its power to dictate the terms of development and redevelopment? Would appreciate further clarification from anyone who is knowledgeable about such things.

    • Lulz

      They have no business dictating homestays either. As long as taxes are paid, the building meets code, and the neighborhood doesn’t object, it should be left up to the owner.

  2. Architecture Buff

    The drawing suggests the building is very much in character with some of Asheville’s classic architecture. It is reminiscent of the Jackson Building, the Kress Building, and the Grove Arcade. It’s not a cookie-cutter hotel. Give the architects some credit. It could bring some distinction to this area.

    • luther blissett

      “Reminiscent” in the sense that it’s a steel-frame parking deck plus condos with a faux-neoclassical facade / stairwell / elevator shaft casting a shadow on the Masonic Temple (and presumably blocking the view from its balcony). On a quarter-acre lot. Also, the Jackson building and Grove Arcade are Gothic Revival; the Kress Building is neoclassical with Deco influences.

      It’s better than the bland cuboids slapped up elsewhere downtown but that’s not saying much. And the aesthetics ultimately matter less than whether the most prominent building in North Lex / North Broadway — an area that now has more “artsy” AirBnBs than artists — is a boutique hotel.

      • Architecture Buff

        The Jackson Building is steel-frame, as you probably know, with a faux (as you put it) Gothic Revival facade. Also, as you probably know, it’s built on a 27’x 60’ lot that was thought to be too small to build a skyscraper. It holds the world record for the tallest building on the smallest lot.
        So steel-frame with masonry cladding shouldn’t be held against the newly proposed building, nor should a small lot. As for the shadow it may cast or the views it may block, I suspect the same objections were raised about the Jackson Building in 1924 (“not appropriate for the neighborhood!”), plus the fact that Mr. Wolfe’s stone-cutting shop (“historic landmark!”) had to be torn done. One historic landmark (perhaps) made way for what is now one of Asheville’s “new” historic” landmarks . . .Just as the Akzona Building, by I.M. Pei, required a charming, “historic” row of small shops to be torn down on one side of Pack Squre. It no doubt casts some shadows and blocks some views. It isn’t a question of if new buildings will replace old buildings, or taller buildings will be built where smaller buildings existed, it’s a question of if the new, tall buildings have some architectural distinction. This proposed building, unlike most of the new hotels, has an interesting design which is in character for Asheville and pays tribute to its history. As W. H. Auden said, “Look shining at New styles of architecture, a change of heart.”

        And remember what happened when the “neighbors” objected to a well-designed, mixed-use, urban village proposed for the automobile lot on Merrimon Ave. It might have cast a shadow and obstructed some of their views. Now what do they have in their backyards? Supermarkets with flat parking lots. Sometimes NIMBYism is a case of “Be careful what you wish for.”

        • luther blissett

          The Azkona / Biltmore building is exceptionally dull and dead on two sides: nobody walking along College Street thinks they’re in the presence of great architecture. Its only saving grace is the reflections when the light is good. As Laura Berner Hudson noted back in 2016 in reference to the BB&T’s makeover, the alternative to bland boxes shouldn’t be pastiche and simulacra:


          Deploying modern materials, methods and budgets to emulate older styles usually produces garbage, especially when juxtaposed with actual examples of that architecture. There’s no novelty there.

  3. Gil

    Gentrification is a practical concern for folks who are loosing their homes and forced to try to find new housing that is exceedingly becoming less affordable. Labeling it “philosophical” is incredibly offensive.

    • Jackie Treehorn

      Gil, which folks are losing their homes and why? The way I’m reading your comment, it seems to suggest that people are being forced out of their homes. Would you kindly clarify for me? Thanks.

    • Lulz

      The one’s losing them are either poor whites (who they hate with a passion and want eradicated from the country) or poor blacks (who they want rounded up in section 8).

  4. Jackie Treehorn

    I suspect it will get built, in some form or another, no matter the opposition. That’s how it often happens, right? The bottom line for the city is more tourists, more buildings to house them, and, more revenue.

    Over the past few years, as it’s become more crowded, we’ve spent very little time downtown. It’s unfortunate, because we used to enjoy visiting many of the local shops and restaurants. We’ve redirected some of our spending to other local businesses in West Asheville and Biltmore Village, but, for the most part, we spend more time at home.

    I certainly hope the outcome of this (latest) debate is something with which all parties can live. Certainly, it will happen again.

  5. SpareChange

    And just a heads up on another project… a proposal to convert the recently sold Flatiron Building into a hotel.

    Review proposed project:
    Monday, 9/10
    8:30 – 5:00 pm
    Planning and Urban Design Department
    5th floor of City Hall

    Attend HRC meeting
    Wednesday, 10/12
    4:00 pm
    1st Floor North Conference Room
    City Hall

    • SpareChange

      Edit: Went to look at the plan today at the scheduled time and learned that the proposal has been temporarily withdrawn. Someone said (unofficially) that it may be back on the table in October.

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