Technical Review Committee delays approval of Flatiron hotel plans

Chris Day and Phillip Woollcott
UNDER CONSIDERATION: Civil engineer Chris Day, center, and developer Phillip Woollcott, right, hear the Technical Review Committee's feedback on their proposal to convert the historic Flatiron Building into an 80-room hotel. Photo by Daniel Walton

A proposal to convert downtown’s historic Flatiron Building into an 80-room hotel still has some explaining to do, according to the Technical Review Committee at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting. Citing unresolved questions about parking and a planned bike lane for Battery Park Avenue, the TRC continued its review until more information is available.

Under Asheville’s Unified Development Ordinance, as explained by city planner Jessica Bernstein, all lodging projects must provide parking, but due to the Flatiron’s historic nature, creating spaces on site is impossible. The hotel would circumvent this limit by providing valet parking for all guests, but initial plans did not include the location of those spaces.

Chris Day, an engineer with Civil Design Concepts who is working on the project, said that he had tentatively identified the Buncombe County garage at 40 Coxe Ave. for hotel parking. He admitted that this situation will require another variance from the UDO, which requires off-site parking to be located within 500 feet of the project.

Additionally, the project would eliminate six existing on-street parking spaces on Battery Park Avenue in front of the Flatiron, to be replaced with a handicap-accessible space and a loading zone. Day said the latter space would not be exclusive to the hotel and could provide extra capacity for what he described as a “free-for-all of loading vehicles” that serve businesses on the street.

Another TRC concern centered around the proposed bike lane opposite from the hotel. While Bernstein said that the city is looking to add bike infrastructure in general, she added that more consideration should be given to how narrowing the travel lane would impact automobile users on Battery Park Avenue.

In response to this concern, Day noted that converting the Flatiron from its existing small retail and office use to lodging would reduce peak-hour trips by 30 to 40 cars per hour, according to recent analysis. The same study, he said, also projected less overall downtown parking demand due to the use change.

TRC members estimated that the Flatiron would come before the board again on Monday, Feb. 4, after project staff had formalized any plan changes. Pending approval, the project would then face a hearing at the Downtown Commission on Friday, Feb. 8, followed by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, March 6.

Only after all three bodies have given their input could the project face a vote by City Council, which recently has been reluctant to approve new hotels. Council members rejected a proposed 170-room project in Biltmore Village on Dec. 12, while other projects have been withdrawn or continued.

After the TRC meeting, Charleston, S.C.-based developer Phillip Woollcott declined to comment about how Council’s recent decisions are influencing the Flatiron proposal. Day, however, said he would press forward in hopes that the project would get a fair hearing.

“I think each of these, as Council members have said, are being considered on a case-by-case basis,” Day said. “So creating an opportunity for that to happen is our goal right now.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

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

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Technical Review Committee delays approval of Flatiron hotel plans

  1. luther blissett

    “he had tentatively identified the Buncombe County garage at 40 Coxe Ave. for hotel parking”

    Cool, cool. Maybe the county can tentatively identify Chris Day’s back yard as the location of its new waste transfer station.

    This is a slapdash proposal and it’s going to end badly for the property owner, the developer, the civil engineer, and especially the multiple small businesses that rent the space.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.