“We are continually amazed by the philanthropic nature of our culinary and hospitality community here and how generous they are to the local community,” says Mary Nesbitt, chief development officer of Asheville-based hunger relief nonprofit MANNA FoodBank.
Around 100 people attended Asheville City Council’s nearly five-hour meeting on March 14, during which 27 speakers declared both resistance and support for the conversion of the Flatiron Building into a hotel.
After an unexpected delay on April 23, Council members will have the final say on the rezoning of the historic structure at their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 14.
From now through the end of the year, 465 new rooms are expected to join the nearly 8,000 already operating in Buncombe County. With many more approved and under construction in 2020 and beyond, just keeping track of what is being built where and by whom is no small challenge.
Community members took the opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding the tourism industry in Asheville and hear a presentation from the WNC Green Party about restructuring of hotel occupancy taxes during an April 24 “Re-Imagine the TDA” public meeting.
Asheville City Council will decide the fate of the historic Flatiron Building during the April 23 meeting.
With wedding season right around the corner, local wedding vendors are ramping up options for local couples.
Mayor Esther Manheimer pointed to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s recent commitment to long-term planning around hotel occupancy taxes as a key factor in her support for the project. “That is the kind of change that I needed to see personally before I would move forward with considering another hotel,” she said, joining Council members Vijay Kapoor, Julie Mayfield and Sheneika Smith in the approval vote.
While Mayor Esther Manheimer recommended in October that local hoteliers Pratik Bhakta and Monark Patel resubmit their proposal to Asheville City Council in at least “a year’s time,” the two aren’t waiting. Their hotel is back on the agenda for Council’s meeting of Tuesday, March 12, less than five months after its first consideration.
The four-phase, roughly $440,000 project is set to begin this spring and conclude in April 2020. Those funds will come from occupancy tax revenue in the Tourism Product Development Fund budget. Funding for community projects will then resume at a time yet to be determined after the planning is complete.
Plans for the Beaucatcher Greenway are on hold, and the city released a $975,000 grant awarded by the Tourism Product Development Fund of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to partially fund the greenway’s construction back to the TDA.
A 170-room proposal on Fairview Road was voted down 6-1, with only Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler dissenting, while a public hearing on a 56-room project on Biltmore Avenue was continued at the developer’s request until March 26. Council members Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield raised concerns about the former hotel’s place in longer-term plans for Asheville.
Two lodging projects will be up for debate: a 56-room hotel spread across four buildings on Biltmore Avenue downtown and a 170-room project on Fairview Road in Biltmore Village. The first proposes to convert three historic houses into accommodations and construct a new five-story structure with a restaurant, while the second would build a new six-story building.
In its first known formal engagement with Asheville, Airbnb sent two of its representatives to an Oct. 23 discussion of homestay regulations sponsored by the Homestay Network, a local group representing over 600 legally permitted homestay hosts. The firm has also committed to another meeting of over 50 stakeholders on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
A quarter-cent sales tax on all purchases in Buncombe County would be earmarked for transit improvements, as required by state law, while a 1 percent tax on prepared foods and beverages bought in the city could be used as general funds. Both taxes would require approval by voter referendum, projected to take place in 2020.
The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority announced its 2018 tourism product development funding grant awards, to the tune of nearly $10 million. Trained staff are standing by to assist with Affordable Care Act enrollment through Saturday, Dec. 15, and residents can learn more about plans to widen Sweeten Creek Road in South Asheville at a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13.
In place of its current small business and retail tenants, the Flatiron Building could play host to overnight guests as an 80-room hotel. Owner Russell Thomas and Charleston, S.C.-based developer Philip Woollcott say lodging use is the only business model able to support extensive needed renovations to the historic structure.
After Mayor Esther Manheimer and Council members Keith Young and Brian Haynes shared their intent to reject the project, attorney Wyatt Stevens pulled the building from consideration on behalf of his clients, local hoteliers Pratik Bhakta and Monark Patel.
Woman-owned businesses are the norm in Weaverville’s downtown district, a bustling hamlet that puts the lie to the notion of small towns as sleepy places where nothing much ever happens.
Roughly 1,600 new hotel rooms have opened in Buncombe County since late 2015 — an increase of approximately 15 percent over that period — with 1,900 still planned. “Since the start of this construction cycle, we’ve been able to fully absorb a pretty enormous supply,” said Explore Asheville President and CEO Stephanie Pace Brown. “We just need to do that over again in the next three or four years.”
On Aug. 13, the Planning & Economic Development Committee recommended that staff throw out the kitchen sink from the current definition. Council members Gwen Wisler, Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield moved to adopt a new “maximum flexibility” definition for kitchen spaces.