Letter writer: Is Asheville becoming Boomtown, N.C.?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

“Paris of the South,” “Beer Town, USA” — is “Boomtown, N.C.” next? Daniel Hall‘s “No Room at the Inn” [May 13, Xpress] is a much-needed discussion on what is unfolding before us here in Asheville. …

While there is no doubt that Asheville is in need of more lodging for the increasing number of tourists, the concern is, “How is it going to be accomplished?” Indeed, what will Asheville look like in a decade or two? One would hope that foresight and wisdom might prevail, especially when building in the historic core of downtown. …

Besides the current number of hotels being built and planned, those located in the downtown area should be of special concern. Location, height and design should all be carefully scrutinized by the city’s officials when considering plans. …

When we talk about Asheville’s attributes … we should also be recognizing the architectural gems of [Douglas] Ellington, [Rafael] Guastavino, [Richard] Sharp Smith and others that make walking around town a pleasure and draw tourists here. No offense to BB&T, but no one comes to town and ogles that building and exclaims, “What a lovely rectangle!”

Worrisome, too, is when a 12-story hotel right across from the historic Grove Arcade (and Flat Iron Building) gets approval from City Council, and the developer is quoted as saying, “A box would be a very simple thing to do.” Hopefully, the design plans for a structure that will rise too high above the [Grove Arcade] will be more complementary than what was allowed to be built on Biltmore Avenue.

The Aloft Hotel may be a fine hotel (great service and all), but the mod-box design, cinder-block base, blue-green stripes and neon is better suited to Myrtle Beach or some other coastal town. In my opinion, this was a mistake and is totally incongruous to everything going on in Asheville and especially on a main street. Complementary it is not. How does this happen?

In a town rich with unique buildings from the 1920s (closing in on 100 years old), shouldn’t there be stronger laws on the book that ensure that new structures that are built in the central business district (how about renaming it the central historical district?) are complementary in architectural style and not so high that they dwarf what people came to see in the first place? Otherwise, that decade or two down the road, we will have killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

— Brad Dawson
Barnardsville

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10 thoughts on “Letter writer: Is Asheville becoming Boomtown, N.C.?

  1. Jim

    That’s right, look to the government to pass laws but don’t actually work to buy the property you don’t want developed to YOUR ideals. Why that will take away your time at the brewery or the tattoo parlor or some other dumb kumbaya fad. Gosh, that might mean the world doesn’t in fact revolve around YOU. In the meantime continue to whine. That’ll stop all those hotels.

    And one other thing about these letter writers who live outside the city yet demand the city pass laws and increase property taxes. Unless you own property within the city and are impacted by this lunacy, do us all a favor and just be quiet. This guy lives in Barnardsville and pays zilch in taxes compared to residents in Asheville. I’ve noticed many of the most vocal left wingerss don’t live in the city and yet they somehow sure know how to spend other people’s money.

    • Bradd

      To reply to Jim…….We’ll start with …..the brewery as a “dumb kumbaya fad”? Really? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would
      know that the breweries (big and small) starting up in town, are a big part in helping to propel the town’s economy and bring in tourist dollars ( & taxes!).
      Next time you drive over the Patton Av. bridge (heading into town) look down to the New Belgium construction, and think of kumbaya.
      Secondly, my wife and I are in downtown Asheville about 4 times per week(yes,we are there that often!), spending money at restaurants, shops,bakeries
      and on occasion, theatre (take your pick). We actually spend a LOT more than tourists ,because we are there so often each week,month
      and for the year. I can imagine that personally (seeing how you wanted to go down this road) we may be in town (and spending $) more than some folks
      who live much closer in . We are not new to the area either.
      Finally, this letter(my original one, that you are commenting about) was NOT about stopping “all those hotels.”. Asheville needs hotels. If you had
      carefully read, what I wrote at the start of paragraph 2, you might see that. The letter is about making sure that we don’t make mistakes now (in the core
      of downtown, where the historical buildings are) that we will regret in the future. We should ALL care, not just about making ($)money immediately,
      but also down the road,for the LONG TERM ($) economic health of Asheville. That is what my point was. Doing it right.

      • Fortunately, Brad, we have a Master Plan (referenced by Gordo above) that guides development. Lots of time and energy went into it and I much prefer it to your opinion. Your comparisons are to fantasy land. The Aloft Hotel, for example, replaced a tyash strewn, rutted surface parking lot with a broken chain link fence around it—and a Hot Dog King. I’ll take the Aloft any day.

        And Jim’s point was that you aren’t an Asheville tax payer—-spending a few $ on food and entertainment isn’t remotely similar.

  2. Lan Sluder

    I’m more of an appreciator, not a critic, of architecture, but I think the original letter writer makes some excellent points. I have not always understood the approach taken by Asheville city planners. Case in point: The idea of requiring most new buildings on Merrimon Avenue to build nearly flush against the street. The Staples monstrosity is an example of an attractive, human-scale streetscape only if you live in Opposite World.

    • Grant Millin

      I don’t think the acting COA planning director is doing the worst job ever with what he’s got. But keep in mind the last planning director started talking about moving on quite some time ago.

      How long does it take to hire an Asheville planning director? Why don’t urban planners want to work here? What are the risks of not having the best permanent city planner possible at this critical juncture?

  3. Grant Millin

    I look forward to adding more to this discussion during the city council election process. My family moved here in 1980 and we owned the historic T.S. Morrison & Co. building and business from many years. My father was a founder of the modern Asheville Downtown Association.

    There’s nothing wrong with someone from Barnardsville adding input about changes to downtown Asheville. While Asheville has been a resort or tourism town at many times, it’s always been the center of WNC. It’s not about Asheville liberals running the lives of the unfortunate out in the hills. Asheville and the rest of WNC, and Charlotte, should be in a teamwork mode as we’ve always traded with each other. Asheville was the place where folks outside Asheville would sell agriculture and bring in other goods. We could be a serious economic hub again.

    But we need a sustainability strategy infused in what we once thought of as our bread and butter economic legs like tourism and its sister, the real estate market. The Downtown Master Plan section on design of hotels seems to have skipped the carbon budget cost of each of these hotels and the carbon budget cost of tourism for the sake of a skewed payoff. Indeed there’s a sizable profit margin to be had in that mix of tourism and real estate. But there’s a sustainability cost for a large population who do basic labor or rent in this town.

    Is there ‘boom’ sort of economy that is sustainable? Well, leveraging all the efforts and examples of real world sustainability programing and businesses in Asheville is a good way to start. A way to accelerate Asheville’s sustainability innovation capability is to do an Asheville Tourism Carbon Audit. It is time to understand our role in global climate change and tourism is a great thing to understand in terms of what we add to the human-caused climate change problem.

    The Asheville Tourism Carbon Audit is just one form of the necessary honestly as to what we’ve come to and where we need to start heading over the next ten years. The Asheville Tourism Carbon Audit should add impetus for us all to start grasping the risks and opportunities of sustainability right here in Asheville. This is a big platform for us to make the course correction so many have been asking about for so long. Of course others across the state, nation, and globe willing to take responsible action are our partners as well. We can’t afford to imagine that we can go it alone in Asheville any longer.

  4. Grant Millin

    We’ve got another case of escalation of commitment with this whole Hotel Glut Spending Problem thing,

    1. Hotel Glut

    2. Asheville Tourism Carbon Audit

    3. Sustainability Sense-making

    Buncombe room tax increase plan emerges in legislature

    Mark Barrett, Citizen-Times
    May 27, 2015

    http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/05/27/buncombe-room-tax-increase-plan-emerges-legislature/28029147/

    The story is about concerns that since too many hotels are being built… more tourist have to be recruited in order to prevent hoteliers ending up with a lot of unoccupied rooms.

    Hey, just do proper marketing analysis and don’t overbuild hotels for the sake of real estate interests. Gee, maybe with some business, local, state, and Federal government teamwork more office spaces with good white collar jobs could be the norm in Asheville.

    • Big Al

      What kinds of “good white collar jobs could be the norm in Asheville”?

      • Grant Millin

        I think ‘green collar’ is an inadequate way to describe CleanTech and sustainability sub-sectors, but that’s a favorite example of mine in terms of New Game Strategy professional positions.

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