Letter: Is this the downtown progress we want?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I have rented office space in the Flatiron Building for my counseling practice for the last four years. I love my sunny sixth-floor office with a southern view over greater Asheville. But losing my office space is not my greatest concern. I am not just concerned for the 80 small businesses in the Flatiron — and some businesses have been there for over 40 years — I am concerned for all of us who will never again enter the building once it is a hotel.

I have an average of 20 clients weekly who come see me at my office. It is common conversation that it is exciting for them to be in this beautiful, historic building. It is a building where we go to see a lawyer, for business consultation, to get a facial or a massage, see a therapist, buy insurance, consult with graphic designers, visit our chaplain or activist organization. Hundreds of Asheville residents visit offices in the Flatiron daily. That’s not even counting the high volume of tourists that visit the Skybar.

It’s true that many have been leaving their offices, pre-empting what seems inevitable. The defeatist attitude is telling. I hear my Flatiron neighbors upset about the change, but see it as business as usual for a city that doesn’t care about its residents. It’s tragic to see how fellow residents are used to being let down by city governance and say that fighting is futile.

This particular City Council was voted in specifically to help preserve some of Asheville’s livability. We voted in members who boasted a care for affordable housing and sustainability. Having a downtown that residents have no reason to enter is not sustainable. I understand that we’re not supposed to stand in the way of progress, but is a downtown that serves tourists at the expense of residents the progress we want? When is enough enough?

— Catherine Shane
Asheville

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12 thoughts on “Letter: Is this the downtown progress we want?

  1. K Smith

    I could not agree with anything more than I do this. This is exactly how I, and many people I know, feel about our current direction.

    • Lulz

      And yet you vote in the same people time and time again. Oh their names are different but their agenda has been the same for almost 3 decades now. The bond passing is the ultimate definition of a population of in denial dimwits who have no clue that they’ll be paying for the privilege of big tourist and brewery corporations opening up shop here.

      Too bad you feel instead of think.

  2. Curious

    Would the current tenants be willing to support rent increases substantial enough to make it economically viable for the owners to provide the necessary upgrades? How many offices are vacant? What are comparable office rental rates in downtown Asheville? What economically viable options for the building does the owner have besides a hotel? It would help readers understand the problem better if we had more information.

  3. jason

    I love how people think they have a right to private property like it’s their own. The owner of the building should be able to do what he or she wants to with the property while preserving the historic heritage of the structure. If a hotel doesn’t work out, it will be turned into another use.

    • SpareChange

      Why draw the line at “preserving its historic heritage?” Isn’t that an unnecessary and arbitrary restriction on the property owner? Why does the preservation of romantic notions of the past get elevated over the rights of the property owner? Indeed, why does it get elevated over the interests of those living and working here and now in the same area, whose own interests and rights will be directly impacted by how the property is used?

    • luther blissett

      “I love how people think they have a right to private property like it’s their own. ”

      I love how private property owners think they have a right to take on more building than they can maintain and then plead “preservation.” And I love how free-market types assert that supply and demand applies to hotel developers but not to those seeking office space. It’s almost as if they’re truly in favor of privatizing rentier profits while socializing the costs.

      • Lulz

        LOL I love how people expect the city to rebuild the RAD so they can profit off run down buildings. It’s as if the owners who never put a dime into many of them woke.up one day and found themselves rich. And never did anything except.sit on property for years. Or worse, have taxpayers fund improvements that don’t benefit them. At least the Flatiron wad going to modernized privately. All you expect is to force this guy to sell out and either some investor take on the costs under some foolish terms or the city to confiscate it. No one will pit up the cash to run an office building at current tents. It’s not financially feasible. Dangerous precedent where lunatic commies pass regulations making it unaffordable for people to own property. And take it for the greater good.

        • SpareChange

          “At least the Flatiron wad (sic) going to modernized (sic) privately.”

          Huh? At least read and give a little thought to the article and other comments. How many millions in tax benefits were to be part of the renovation budget? Once completed, how much in occupancy taxes (collected and controlled by the hotel industry) would then go into advertising in order to fill the place? This may be “private funding” in crony capitalist Trump world, but not in Adam Smith world.

          • Lulz

            That comment is rich. Say where are all those occupancy taxes going? Back into the infrastructure?

            Where did all the RAD money come from? I see the sidewalks down at Biltmore Village are being redone, BRICK BY BRICK with a sign that says bond money at work. Why are the larger brewers seeing tax breaks?

        • luther blissett

          “No one will pit up the cash to run an office building at current tents. It’s not financially feasible. ”

          In that case, the city should buy it at a fair fixer-upper price.

          Dude bought the building for $300,000. He’s not going to go panhandling whatever happens.

          But this one’s got you tied up in knots, hasn’t it? The self-appointed champion of the working class apparently wants self-employed small business owners evicted so that a property owner can cash out on an under-maintained building and a hotel developer can take huge tax credits to restore it. It’s an ideological pretzel.

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