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.
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.