Letter: Flatiron Building should not become hotel

Graphic by Lori Deaton

[I am urging Asheville City Council to] please do not keep destroying the core of the city by converting the Flatiron Building to a hotel.

Asheville residents have no obligation to enrich the owner of the building by his Cadillac proposal that injures the residents and tourists and hurts our quality of life. Quit destroying the downtown experience to enrich the wealthy.

If he wants to sell, let him sell at market value, and the next person can fix up the building. The building is worth what it is worth and has been under his management. It is his responsibility to keep it up — or sell it in its present use or possibly slight modification.

In Asheville, we should be protecting our valuable parking for tourists and those doing business with downtown merchants — not passing something that could take hundreds of spots away. For any proposal to be allowed, we must insist upon 100% parking provided by the hotel, including all hotel room guests (some having two cars), all staff, all restaurant workers and even convention or conference parking needs.

The existing parking belongs to the Asheville city businesses and residents. Neither wants to see the spots taken by a hotel, causing those doing business to go spend their money elsewhere — where parking is available. I sure don’t want to be taxed to provide more parking when this hotel needs the limited spaces already paid for by us.

Hotels belong on the periphery, even though the city allows them in the core. (The “up not out” policy: That is flawed.) We need to have hotels a few to quite a few blocks away from the core. Those hotels again must provide for all parking needed — and the guests can walk or take short transit to town — avoiding the need for parking in the core.

The small boutique businesses in the Flatiron are wonderful — they add huge character to the city. Again, if this is not working for him, let him sell it, and we will likely see the same or similar use be continued. It appears by the article in the paper that changing to a hotel will be hurting many small businesses as they “close” in the Flatiron Building. That is a real loss to Asheville. That area is special. We go there often.

I understand that on another street years ago, probably Lexington Avenue, was proposed a mall. The modern mall was not approved, and the street remained the character we see now, as Asheville flourished. We are now faced again with mall/hotel or keep the character of Asheville. We hope the decision can be for keeping the special character.

The traffic downtown is terrible, so why add to this congestion? What is our benefit? We need to know this: How do we benefit from this hotel? We don’t.

The City Council has no obligation to approve this, to enhance the wealth of a wealthy man. The Council is to help the city — the people — to keep Asheville in character and build upon what we have that is good.

Asheville residents: Does the proposal make Asheville better? No, it does not. It makes Asheville worse.

Please do what you can to stop this destruction of a very special area in Asheville.

Thank you for reading this.

— Jerry Hinz
Candler (moving to the city this fall)

Editor’s note: A public hearing on the matter will take place Tuesday, April 23, during the Council’s regularly scheduled meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. at City Hall. April 23 update: That public hearing now has been rescheduled to May 14.

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24 thoughts on “Letter: Flatiron Building should not become hotel

  1. indie

    There are fewer hotel room in downtown Asheville today than there were 100 years ago. Pushing hotel supply outside of downtown, or even worse, just outside of the city, is economically and environmentally a silly gravity defying effort.

    Demand will be met. If you want more folks driving in from just out side wherever our silly council draws the line, be sure to encourage them to vote no. If/when they do, your tax dollars will probably go to another futile losing court case overturning their vote. Look up their recent loses if interested.

    • luther blissett

      “Demand will be met.”

      Unless you’re a self-employed professional seeking office space, apparently.

        • luther blissett

          That just makes you look dumb. Available office space in Asheville falls into three rough categories: a) somebody’s spare room; b) co-working / daily rental spaces; c) large properties designed for a single corporate occupant that can’t be easily subdivided to host multiple single-person businesses without considerable remodeling expense.

          The Flatiron offices are 150-300 sq. ft. renting at $30-40 per sq. ft. The Self-Help Building has similar spaces though cheaper. Please provide links to similar available commercial spaces in Asheville: they don’t even have to be downtown. It’s not a question of affordability so much as availability.

          Citing the number of hotel rooms a century ago is fine enough for nostalgia’s sake — take a tour of the Wolfe house to remind yourself what “a hotel room” actually meant — but perhaps take a tally of the amount of office space now as compared to ten years ago.

  2. Jerry Hinz

    Your comment seems to have beliefs… could you provide facts? In 1919 there were about 19,000 in Asheville
    and right now we have maybe 8000 to 9000 rooms to stay in– and 91,000 people. So if we had more hotel rooms in 1919.. the tourists could have even outnumbered those living here ??. The Great Depression happened..Then, . in the 70’s Asheville was boarded many up buildings. I found one resource: “Some of that pessimism was reinforced when large-scale solutions attempted by city leaders failed. A proposal was floated demolish a large part of the historic downtown and replace it with an enclosed mall. That idea was voted down but in the process local citizens became much more invested in saving and bringing back downtown. ” Thank Goodness for that city council ! Developers want – what they want– NOT what WE want. Each part of Asheville has a character. The downtown is really special – but it is under attack by developers who want to make money and most do not care much how they make it—- they can cry that they are not making it – and must convert the city– NO– they bought and hoped to change buildings- but we should just say NO– If they want to sell to someone else- fine… they have the right– if they sell at a loss- they created the situation- not us. Sorry– you didn’t make all the money you hoped… move on please.. As for hotels doing some kind of gravity something. Hotels 7 or 8 blocks away with parking can work. Many who have cars parked there would walk to town.. some could take improved transit. We have a huge parking problem- and businesses would appreciate having the parking for their customers in the core.. otherwise people drive to where it is less expansive – or free–to park. Enough for now— Thanks

    • Mike

      Some FACTS would be nice. You appear to be saying that Asheville presently has 8,000 to 9,000 DOWNTOWN hotel rooms. Can you document that?

      • Virginia Daffron

        Hi Mike,

        Per a January 2019 presentation to the local hospitality industry by the Explore Asheville CVB, there were 78 hotel properties in Buncombe County with 7,801 total rooms. According to that presentation, there are 22 hotel properties in the development pipeline in Buncombe, with 505 new rooms expected to come on line in 2019.

        • Mike

          Indie said “There are fewer hotel rooms in DOWNTOWN ASHEVILLE than there were 100 years ago. ”

          You folks try to discredit Indie by quoting the total number of hotel rooms in BUNCOMBE COUNTY.

          I’m still looking for some FACTs regarding the number of hotel rooms THEN and TODAY in DOWNTOWN Asheville,. Capiche??? I doubt it.

      • jerry hinz

        YES-Hotel rooms around 9000?—- https://www.hvs.com/Content/Bookstore/InFocus/InFocus-Asheville-NC.pdf
        There are many other sources.
        This study was 2015– some articles say 2000 and more —-have come online recently..
        The 2015 amount is shown on page 7 and
        was 7201… plus the 2000 is 9201. There are other sources but anyone can find them with google.
        I like Facts too– Thanks for asking ! and thanks Virginia– lots of sources- not sure which is the most accurate… at least— it’s a pretty big number !

        • Mike

          As I said to Virginia, Indie was proposing that the total number of rooms in DOWNTOWN ASHEVILLE 100 years ago is fewer than it is today. Virginia was at least honest enough to say her numbers represented BUNCOMBE COUNTY. Was she wrong?

          • Jerry

            Pretty sure my figures are Asheville That Would likely be all the way to Csndler- not sure the other boundaries. I don’t know if any way to isolate what someone believes to be downtown. I guess just the point that we have enough conversions in the center of town. The occupancy is probably high- one place said about 65%. Of course making hotels makes money – but this has to stop ruining downtown. Stop it now. Pass more ordinances – more zoning – more regulations to end these hotels in the core. The applications will keep pouring in unless the city stops approvals with legal backing

    • jerry hinz

      I guess we could have the new and modern inside mall on Lexington- right downtown – with that thinking. I think we really have to be thankful that city council spoke up.
      Thankfully citizens do have something to say. Thankfully- we see a great street there now.
      I am not sure if a conditional use- or other variance of zoning is needed– i assume
      that it is—– to do this much conversion. If that variance is needed – then the city has every right to not approve something that
      materially changes- continues the changes — of the city to hundreds of hotels-
      right where we need to maintain the character of the city- NO- business people should NOT expect to come to town and do whatever they want.
      That -obviously- can destroy the feeling of this city– the reason people come to live and visit.. and the “fun” of it all .

    • luther blissett

      It’s fine to be a libertarian absolutist about property rights — your beliefs are your beliefs, like any other religion — but don’t try to assert that it has positive consequences or that free markets work, because that’s plainly untrue.

    • Jerry Hinz

      It is hard to define– but the areas of Charlotte street— to the south slope area- to maybe Cox or even the bridge on the west.
      . to 240 on the north- and back to Charlotte. I used to work with “Management Areas’– each has it’s unique needs –
      this core area is defined by older buildings with their characteristics.. many eclectic shops- green space- Pack Square.. etc. some new infill- some really hideous
      hotels– I think back before the city council even became involved- they let their departments pass on the buildings– well- that certainly failed us .
      You know — a few years ago–with so much opposition- on Pack Square development-including the planned destruction of the Magnolia–
      the developer did not build the 13 story condo right at the Magnolia tree behind Packs Tavern.. Thank you to the city council too–
      He chose instead —after quite a fight- to fix up Pack’s Tavern. -Which used to be a Bluegrass BBQ– I like Packs Tavern– it is really really cool..
      I know he has passed – but I thank him for that decision every time I go by there. I may not have answered what you asked- but I did reply !
      .

  3. Froscari

    I love how Jerry Hinz drives in from Candler and then complains about the traffic.

    • Jerry

      We have lived in Asheville.
      Then, we moved out of town to help raise
      2 nieces..in a more kid friendly area.
      Now- they are in college and we are moving back to the core area of Asheville . —
      The traffic/ driving– is part of the reason to move back. A big reason to being in town is to NOT drive in
      for activities starting a few hours after dark – especially in winter- (admittedly-we are very unlikely to do -).
      Walking to these activities is much more possible. As we get older– one level living is attractive.
      I do think that all businesses appreciate customers coming in from other areas and that is
      probably most of their client base. Asheville is the special place where many want to visit and participate in special
      activities. YES- that does involve driving in- and parking– This supports Asheville.
      It appears this hotel wants some– or a lot– of parking. I think that is wrong.
      Thanks for your comment. YES- we are all part of the problem.
      The hotel adds to the problems- without providing a betterment and it injures the quality of life for Asheville more than is appropriate.

  4. jcherese

    Jerry, isn’t yours also an argument for hotels to be in downtown? If tourists are staying in hotels on the outskirts then they too will have to drive in for activities, creating more traffic and less parking. If they are staying in hotels in downtown, they park once and can walk where they want to go. As I understand it, the parking the hotel wants to utilize is in the new(ish) county lot that to my knowledge has never been at full capacity. I live and work downtown & so am pretty familiar with the parking situation and which lots are generally over-taxed during peak times (Rankin, Biltmore & Wall St). One of the main parking problems, in my opinion, isn’t the lack of parking but that people want to park as close to their destination as possible. The College Street and Coxe Ave. (or Sears Alley) lots generally have ample parking available, but they’re not as close to the places most people want to be. Also, hotels actually use less & require less parking spaces than office buildings. I grew up here and understand the frustrations but also think restoring and preserving a historic building as a hotel is much better than all the new construction, ugly, generic hotels we’ve been plagued with thus far.

    • Jerry

      Good points– hard to figure out the right mix. I was hoping – and even hoped working with the very start of the master plan- for Asheville–
      that the city would approve what our initial meetings indicated- that hotels should be more to the edges of the core- leaving the feeling of the core.
      and providing 100% of the parking– their responsibility- at their hotel. Our transit could adapt- even better– the hotels could adapt with courtesy vans.. etc..
      people could walk in- a few blocks- from those hotels–
      they could choose to walk to the south slope- to the core of town-and maybe even to the river district.. — maybe with not leaving the hotel parking lot.
      The county building parking will fill up – it is really new– I have been on the waiting list for the Rankin and the Civic Center parking for 2 years–
      I did not even try for the Wall Street parking deck figuring I’d never get that. YES- the new county building has spaces. — they will fill up as the news gets out.
      Not sure about the requirement for the office parking- taking so many spots- it may be true.. I thought maybe those working in the core could car pool-
      take transit – live nearby and walk ..in addition to using the public parking. We certainly can adapt the transit system to get the parking more remote– not right in the core.
      Those workers would be more local–and can work out their parking problems–
      the Hotels would have at least one car per room- those traveling–with cars needing parking — those going to the new restaurants-
      conference space parking- and all staff.. seems like a lot of parking need– to me . YES- the city should have been making sure we didn’t get the INDIGO- the hospital bottom-
      with the Holiday Inn top– a design they used all over the world- and wouldn’t you guess.. I found out later- it was “Holiday Inn” – now I guess it’s been sold to someone else.
      Not sure the affiliation of “ours” the terribly ugly hotel . Why do we let the hotel get the parking we have built with tax money ? Why should tax money paid for by citizens –
      be given to a hotel? Each spot in parking can be extremely expensive to build… SO- WE WOULD LOCK UP THAT PARKING PERMANENTLY FOR THIS HOTEL ? NO– !
      I don’t agree – As a highway engineer- and having worked some with transportation systems— I don’t see transferring public parking for dedicated private use…in order to
      approve a hotel- that changes the character of the core– substantially changes it.. the city council will be doing a great disservice to us if they approve this proposal. They will be proving that they are pro-business- and don’t really understand the downtown and it’s special attraction.. Thanks for your comment– Helps us understand this issue better.

  5. Corbu#2

    Who said they were GIVING the parking to the hotel? Do you really believe that the city and county are going to do that? Do you have any information to back that claim up?

    • JERRY

      I have asked the county commissioners— – no answer yet–
      I heard this from just a plain old person– I don’t know what they know..
      but – somehow – The flat Iron needs parking– the only parking available belongs to us…
      the WAll STREET PARKING IS TAKEN 100%… they better not be getting even one spot in there…
      that is very high demand, — and of course – they take some of OUR street parking for their entrance- and
      who knows what else– they take—Can you believe we would give up to maybe 100 spots — maybe even permanently ? I wish I could read about the whole thing somewhere..
      If it is not secret- it seems to be “keep as quiet as you can- so it will pass” Well- I don’t like the idea.
      I think he just bought the place a year or 2 ago- and now crying it needs to be a hotel… ? NO– IT DOES NOT.
      I have been on the waiting list for Rankin and Civic center- for almost 2 years…
      They damn sure better not be giving that to a hotel…. why isn’t this in information — what we know already? maybe i missed it … let me know if you know please….

      • Corbu#2

        You heard a rumor from just a plain old person? There’s way too much hearsay that gets thrown around as facts in this town. And there’s way too much hysteria when it comes to hotels and evil developers.

        There’s clearly a demand for a new parking deck downtown. And that was true long before the recent addition of new hotels. But here’s a fact. Hotels use less parking than offices. Here’s another fact. There’s parking available at night in most every parking deck in town and leasing those spaces to hotels could be a great source of income for this cash strapped city that can’t afford to fix the sidewalks and also doesn’t want to build a new parking deck downtown. Don’t blame the hotels for the city government not building a parking deck.

        You could look at Buncombe county’s GIS and see that there are multiple owners of the building. It is a condominium. The current majority owner of the building bought it in 1985 when downtown was still struggling and there were many vacant and underutilized buildings. He took a risk, poured his heart, soul and energy into this building for 34 years. He’s been a good steward of the building and has provided small offices for local businesses and should be commended for that. Instead, he gets crucified on social media for wanting to sell to a “money grubbing developer” that wants to build a hotel.

        Look. This building is really old, 92 years to be precise, and really worn out. It needs new everything. Most buildings from that era (Grove Arcade for example) have been renovated in the last 20 years or so, the Flatiron hasn’t. It’s a local historic landmark and needs to be preserved. The owner’s not crying, he’s making a business decision. The developer isn’t evil for wanting to make a profit. One would assume that you work hard and want to make a profit. Does that make you a bad person? Maybe a developer built your house in Candler?Maybe there was an outcry that someone’s farm got plowed over for a new subdivision for your home?

        There’s more to this story than tourists steal our parking, the building owner is a bad person, the developer is greedy, and this building HAS TO stay the same use that it’s been for the last 92 years.

        • Jerry

          Thanks for more information. I had thought it was sold as the headline here indicated it was
          for sale for $16 million- (at that time not sold) after being bought for $440,000. guess it did not sell – and now needs help.
          http://ashvegas.com/developer-wants-buy-flatiron-building-asheville-make-hotel
          The sale price was/is 37 times what it was purchased for – It is possible that in it’s present condition it is not worth $16 million
          and that a fair market value sale would be less- and the new person could fix it up.
          YES- parking for hotels are more at night- but then– many people say how great it is that those parking for a hotel-
          will not have to drive- and can walk everywhere. I have no idea about offices needing more parking than hotels- or any particular
          needs related to this building. As I said – if mostly local — then those working there can car pool- use mass transit- or walk in i f
          they live nearby. Those needing the services of the building will certainly need to park. Having the 20 or more unique retail spots
          there now- are certainly attractive to people wanting to use them. You say “Hard Work.. and then say it is in such disrepair that it needs help..
          I guess he forgot to do the hard work to maintain it- and it wont sell for his huge number – to make the 37 times investment..
          specifically he is asking for a cadillac solution- a conversion of something I am pretty sure most people of the area do NOT want to see.
          There are many things that can be said… but the result of a hotel- using public parking- taking away small shops – contributing to the conversion
          of the core to hotels- for maximum profit— is not a great decision for our city council .. There must be other options…
          The conversion to a hotel is a changed use – and the city does not need — is not responsible to– help an owner make more profit by
          changing a use in the core– to hotels. It is the developer/ owners responsibility to make the place in the same or similar character
          or just sell it at a fair market value- Seems like still a great profit would be made.. Thanks for your information – we just think a little differently. !

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