McKibbon gets Council go-ahead for BB&T reno

Hotel owner John McKibbon promises living wage for full-time employees of redeveloped BB&T building, $250,000 contribution to affordable housing trust fund, $750,000 investment on publicly-owned land and public art. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Though hotelier John McKibbon had to wait out part of the Jan. 12 meeting of City Council in the overflow room, his moment to shine eventually arrived. After a wide-ranging discussion touching on living wages, affordable housing, the hotel occupancy tax, municipal infrastructure needs and public art, Council voted 5-2 to approve McKibbon Hotel Group’s plans to renovate the former BB&T building on Pack Square.

The 201,000 square foot, 19-story office building will be redeveloped as a mixed-use complex including about 140 hotel rooms, 40 residential condominiums, two restaurants, event and meeting space and retail space. A new three-level parking structure at 11 Patton Avenue will serve residents and hotel guests, while sidewalks on all sides of the building will be widened and improved.

New Council members Brian Haynes and Keith Young cast the dissenting votes, which were in line with campaign promises each made to put the brakes on what some see as out-of-control growth in Asheville, particularly in the booming hotel market.

In a blow for Christopher Columbus, Council approved a resolution declaring the second Monday in October Indigenous People’s Day.

Council also passed a measure waiving some fees for public utilities during the construction phase of the proposed Lee Walker Heights public housing redevelopment, a measure Asheville Housing Authority CFO David Nash said was necessary for obtaining low-income housing tax credits during preliminary financing negotiations for the project. Two current Lee Walker Heights residents spoke in support of the proposed project, expressing appreciation for the communication they had received from the Housing Authority about the project.

Givens Estates got the green light for Phase III of its Givens Creekside renovation project on the main Givens campus.

A representative from the city’s financial auditing firm presented the results of a recent audit, pronouncing the audit a “clean opinion overall,” with no areas of significant concern. City finance director Barbara Whitehorn reported on city finances for the first quarter of fiscal year 2016 and Executive Director of Planning & Multimodal Transportation Cathy Ball gave an update on the city’s strategic operating plan.

Inge Durre presents proposal for swapping Collier Street Wood property for city-owned lot at 33-35 Page Avenue. Photo by Virginia Daffron
Inge Durre presents proposal for swapping Collier Street Wood property for city-owned lot at 33-35 Page Avenue. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Before adjourning to go into closed session, Council heard testimony from Inge and Imke Durre, leaders of an effort to preserve the Collier Street Wood on Asheville’s South Slope. The Durres and their supporters have been working with the city to identify city-owned properties that could be exchanged for the wooded site. Council declined to move forward with a swap in advance of a private fundraising effort to cover the difference in value between the proposed park site and a city-owned site at 33-35 Page Avenue identified by the developer as a prospective alternative.




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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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23 thoughts on “McKibbon gets Council go-ahead for BB&T reno

  1. Gordon Smith

    Thanks to everyone who advocated for a socially just renovation of the BB&T. The people demanded living wages, only local businesses in the retail spaces, using local artists, contributing to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and getting on the side of the people in the fight for an equitable distribution of the occupancy tax. I made those conditions of my approval. The applicant saw the writing on the wall, and he agreed to do all of these things and more (he will also invest $750,000 in the sidewalks, hire local people, and participate in the city transit Passport program).

    Cecil Bothwell made the motion to approve the project, and it passed 5-2. There is a new standard for downtown development, and the precedent was set last night. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen!

    Back in September, Ellen Frost and three other Commissioners sided with the hoteliers, agreeing to collect the tax exactly the way they wanted. I realized the only way we’ll ever win this fight is by getting a majority of Tourism Development Authority people willing to publicly stand up for the people of Asheville. Last night John McKibbon became the latest hotelier to do so. It’ll be up to all of us to continue to work together to help the hotel industry understand that they must be cooperative partners with the people, that exploitation will not do.

    • NFB

      Councilman Smith,

      What assures do we have that Mr. McKibbion will follow through on his promises?

      He says he will pay a living wage to all “full time” employees, so what is to stop him from classifying the vast majority of his employees as “part time” this getting around that promise? (Remember a few years ago when UPS tried to claim that people working 35 hours were “part time” so as not to have to pay benefits?)

      He says he use only local businesses and artists. Is this enforceable? What happens when local businesses decide they can’t afford the rents?

      He says he will support redirecting some of the room tax collected for the TDA, but only the legislature can approve making that change and the only chance of that happening if the full TDA agrees (and even then given the hostility the powers that be in the legislature have towards Asheville that would be no guarantee) meaning that Mr. McKibbion’s support is likely to carry much weight even if it is sincere.

      Maybe I have just gotten way too cynical but what I see happening last night was just another example the tourist industry getting whatever it wants in Asheville and all of these promises are just window dressing. I hope I am proven wrong.

      • NFB is right on the facts but wrong in his implication that the hotel is bad. Luxury hotels like Battery Park Tower are providing tons of affordable housing as we speak.

      • James

        Gordon Smith. NFB has asked you some very important questions. I think you owe him and the rest of the taxpayers reading this article a response. We eagerly wait your responses to these justified questions.

        • Yep

          Gordon has trouble answering direct questions often. For example, as a candidate running for higher office why would he not have a ‘questions’ page for public answers on his campaign website?

          (remember Rich Lee allowed posted questions but never answered a single question on his futile campaign website)

          • Peter Robbins

            Do any of his questioners have a reputation for rudeness? That might discourage conversation.

            (I exclude NFB from this category because that person’s Internet behavior is exemplary and, accordingly, NFB was willing to wait for time to give the answers.)

    • Jackson Tierney

      Gorden, I am continually impressed with your presence on the council. You have a knack for pushing for what you believe in without being pushy or grandstanding. You articulate well your position and back it up with solid reasoning. You are committed to your positions, but also seem to be quite open to new ideas. The deal struck with the McGibbons group seems to me to be a good one for the people of Asheville. The last thing I thought we needed is another hotel, but the benefits (monitory and architecturally) that we will receive outweigh the potential negatives. This agreement sets a new benchmark for future deals, so we are heading in the right direction for future downtown growth. Good job to you and the Council.

      • Haynes and Young were worse than Smith but Mckibben would have helped Asheville housing far more without the leverage from city government. It should be all hotel and condo with no office or retail because downtown already has too much office and retail, which forces automotive commuting from distant housing supplies.

    • luther blissett

      “I realized the only way we’ll ever win this fight is by getting a majority of Tourism Development Authority people willing to publicly stand up for the people of Asheville.”

      It’s good to know that the TDA is the de facto city government and that City Council merely exists to lobby it for crumbs. Let’s see how many of those promises McKibbon actually keeps, or whether he’ll pull away the football.

      • It’s far from the “only” way. council can just eliminate the occupancy tax until it is spent right, which may be never, and fund the housing trust with property tax and police transfers until then. If council uses police funds for affordable housing, then TDA will certainly react by hiring police to protect tourists. It’s all about brinksmanship Gordo.

        • Gary W

          It would help to get the facts before commenting. The occupancy tax is not a city tax so council does not have the authority to change, repeal or alter it. Period

          In 1983, the North Carolina legislature ratified a bill that created a lodging tax in Buncombe County. What ultimately became a six percent room tax is added to the seven percent sales tax that properties also must charge their customers. A total tax of 13 percent is charged to visitors for each night they stay in a hotel in Buncombe County.

          • The TDA would still fund police if city council had the brinkmanship to transfer police funding to affordable housing.

    • Smith is a jerk. Highrise hotels house the homeless like in Battery Park Tower. The Occupancy tax is his own fault for not repealing it. Council can just repeal the occupancy tax until it is spent on affordable housing and use property tax until then. Also if the city transferred enough police funding to affordable housing, I’m sure the TDA would then gladly fund police to protect tourists. Beds are human needs including for long distance abortion travellers, unlike all the things Smith leveraged. and the city should NEVER have leveraged the elimination of the valuable midcentury modern exterior or even more automotive subsidised parking, of which downtown already has far too much. Haynes and Young are even bigger jerks, and I am so glad I saw that Young was antisleep in time to oppose him.

    • James

      Councilman Smith, it’s been several hours and you have yet to respond to NFB’s questions below. I know you’re checking this thread frequently – you used to stalk the message boards constantly. We’re eagerly awaiting your response.

    • “the fight for an equitable distribution of the occupancy tax. ”

      Why doesn’t Mr. Smith contact his representative in the state legislature about acting on the occupancy tax?

      • Lulz

        LOL, why how else would Smith pat himself on the back solving these problem that he likes to tout but really never defeats lulz?

    • Yep

      former Mayor Cannon of CLT went to prison for doing this kind of thing NONpublicly…just sayin…

  2. Was Cathy Ball that fancy horse owner who built the stable in North Buncombe with the live in caretaker after buying the land from my cousin? or are there two women named Cathy Ball?

  3. Lee Walker Heights must not be torn down. Any new units should be built beside the old ones and in addition to them, not on their demolished sites. Also council should sell 33-35 Page Ave for market rate housing and NOT trade for urban woods, which do nothing for contraception and therefore nothing for the environment. If we are to avoid 10 lanes of commuters, then highrise housing is needed on BOTH sites, which makes no trade useful.

    • Yep

      Alan, remember, it’s lieberal progressives like Gordon Smith who delight in keep the poor people segregated…it’s a big part of their need to control people.

      • boatrocker

        More hotels owned from outta towners, less living wage, more kow towing to developers.

        Let them (Asheville, aka us) eat cake.

        Trump Rand bless the unregulated free market economy. We as a nation have always been safe in their comforting arms.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but is the opposite or progress called Congress?

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