If the Charleston, S.C.-based Kassinger Development Group follows through on its plan to build a four-story, 180-unit mixed-use apartment complex at 130 Charlotte St., the location’s current Fuddruckers restaurant will be replaced by a much more exceptional building. For many in the standing-room-only crowd of over 120 people that gathered at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Grove Park to discuss the project on Aug. 7, that was exactly the issue: The development represents an unwanted exception from the character of their neighborhood.
Developer Payne Kassinger confirmed that city of Asheville staff has been working to remove several parcels, including the Fuddruckers location, from the Charlotte Street Transition Overlay District. This special zoning, established in 2010, sets limits of 12,000 square feet on new structures; the planned development would have 16,000 square feet of commercial space alone.
Instead, Kassinger hopes the property will be rezoned to Mixed Use Expansion, which allows buildings of up to six stories and 200,000 square feet. Although the exact footprint of the building is still under consideration, existing plans call for a first floor of businesses topped by 26 efficiency, 93 one-bedroom and 61 two-bedroom apartments. (Twenty percent of the units would be guaranteed as affordable housing for at least 15 years.) A total of 327 parking spaces, some underground, would service the complex.
Chip Kassinger, Payne’s father and the company’s founder, said the city had approached his group with the desire for dense development. “Everybody seemed to have already, in their mind, felt that this is what the use should be for the property, so we’ve just moved forward like that,” he said. No representative from the city’s Planning & Urban Design Department was present at the meeting, although Suzanne Escovitz, president of the Grove Park-Sunset Mountain Neighborhood Association, said staff had attended previous discussions.
Resident Jane Mathews shared her issues with the city’s procedure for making this major change to plans for the area. “There was a community visioning process … that was done with community consensus and City Council approval. To have it just tossed out the window, I want to know when that happens,” she said, garnering murmurs of agreement from the crowd.
While the city may want to make the area denser, neighborhood residents argued that Charlotte Street’s existing traffic problems should preclude a development of such size. Doug McKee said he already takes detours to avoid the road’s intersection with Chestnut Street, off of which the new building would be situated, after getting hit twice while driving in congested traffic near Starbucks at 62 Charlotte St.
“You could make the most beautiful building in the world, and it might be aesthetically pleasing, but the traffic flow… Once it goes in here, we’re all going to be stuck,” McKee said. Referencing the city’s recently approved road-diet plan to reduce Charlotte Street from four lanes to three north of Chestnut Street, he added, “They’re all about traffic calming. I’m about moving it!”
The Kassingers responded that they’ve commissioned a traffic study by Mark Teague of Waynesville that goes above and beyond the city’s requirements, which Payne said were “pretty pitiful” in scope. They said the results of that study will be made publicly available upon its completion later in the month and that the project will change to accommodate any new findings.
A first round of conceptual plans for the project will be submitted to the city’s Technical Review Committee within the next 30 days. The Kassingers say they hope to present before the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission around the middle of October, with final Council approval to follow by the middle of November.