In the face of a possible temporary ban on new hotel construction, plans for a 9-story mixed-use hotel located at the north end of downtown got a unanimous green light from Asheville’s Planning and Zoning Commission, whose members touted the project as “innovative” for its blend of for-sale condominiums, affordable housing and retail space during their Aug. 7 meeting.
“This is one of the better hotel proposals that we’ve seen in a while, with the streetfront activation [and] provided parking. It’s not displacing a current use,” said commission Chair Laura Hudson. “It’s not perfect, but it certainly is a step in the right direction.”
The Create 72 Broadway project, located at 72 Broadway and 61 and 67 North Market Street, will stand at 88 feet tall, just one foot below Asheville’s definition of a high-rise building, according to city planner Sasha Vrtunski.
After some pre-meeting shuffling from the project’s development team and requests from commission members, the makeup of the building as approved stands at 137 hotel rooms — down from the 150 listed in a staff report available before the meeting — and 37 residential units. Nine of the units are designated affordable at 60% area median income ($39,840 per year for a family of four), and two additional units are allocated for live/work housing for local artists.
A city ordinance requires that the builders provide at least one parking space for every two proposed hotel rooms, a total of 69. Vrtunski noted that Create 72 Broadway will feature 92 spaces. She also said that parking for residential units is not required in the Central Business District.
An additional 1,187 square feet of commercial space is slated for the ground floor, according to Vrtunski, with entrances on Broadway and North Market streets. The development team also plans to construct an 1,100-square-foot art gallery, as well as a transit shelter near Broadway and Woodfin streets.
“I wouldn’t even call this a hotel project. I mean, yes, it is leaning more towards hotel than residential, but we are getting affordable housing downtown,” said commission member Joe Archibald.
Not everyone in attendance had such high praise for the project. David Feingold, general manager and CEO of Blue Ridge Public Radio, said during public comment that the station’s roughly 20 employees, along with guests and volunteers, would be displaced from the parking spaces that his organization currently rents on a monthly basis.
“Since we pay for our own employees’ parking, this also translates into an increase to our nonprofit budget,” Feingold said. “This development could impact the viability for maintaining our downtown office in the long term.”
Three speakers raised concerns about the proposed development’s encroachment on the Asheville City Market, which operates seasonally at 52 North Market St. on Saturday mornings. Mike McCreary, who manages the downtown farmers market, said the construction of the hotel would displace 20 of the 50 local vendors who rely on the market as a primary source of income.
“My first concern is whether the proposed hotel and Asheville City Market can share Market Street. Is it feasible for our farms and vendors to shift up the street towards Walnut to allow vehicle access from Woodfin into the hotel?” McCreary asked. “Given the site plan of the market and the footprint of the proposed hotel, it is clear that there is not enough room on the street for the market to shift. It would have to shrink.”
In response, the commission’s approval of the project included a recommendation for the developer to work with McCreary to find a viable solution before the project heads to Asheville City Council for its final vote. The date for that hearing has yet to be determined.
Resident Steve Keeble also argued that despite its nod toward housing opportunities, the project still fell too heavily toward hotel use. “This is a -room hotel. All the other stuff is fluff,” he said. “It’s to try and make it sound really appealing, but at the end of the day… that’s not a dent in affordable housing needs for Asheville.”