Imagine downtown without Public Interest Projects

Let’s see what Asheville would be like if Public Interest Projects never existed.

Start on Haywood Street, where there would not be the Asheville Hotel, which has some of the lowest-rent apartments in downtown. That little hometown bookstore (Malaprop’s) on the first floor would also not be there. How about the first large condo project in downtown (the old J.C. Penny Co. building)? It would not have happened [or] spurred the condo building downtown. I worked as a superintendent on that project and know that they did not make a dime but thought it was more important to provide downtown housing than to make a buck. You remember the Bob Dylan, Beastie Boys and Toots & the Maytals shows — never happened. Orange Peel is just a boarded up building or possibly an antique mall. There are numerous other tangible and intangible projects that never happened in this town.

How would downtown look with the subtraction of Public Interest Projects? Not Like it does today.

— Casey Carmichael Asheville

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26 thoughts on “Imagine downtown without Public Interest Projects

  1. Grant Millin

    Casey’s LTTE not helpful. The ‘who made downtown Asheville what it is today’ factor is not about PIP. It’s about people who get no credit. I guess it’s about a whole bunch of tourists as well.

    Inaccurately overemphasizing one group is unwise. I think pompous is the word I’m looking for to describe this LTTE.

    If this ‘PIP’ is trying to guide people through a ‘mental healing process’ to help us re-frame the 51 Biltmore deal, he/she is not very good at PR. This PIP (being a superintendent, I think Casey worked for a PIP contractor actually) must think the rest of us are a bunch of a** clowns.

    We just have no need for another hotel. We don’t need parking for in-and-out-restaurant-eating tourists. We need to fill our many empty office spaces with businesses that offer fantastic careers for our new grads and experienced people who are out of work… or in dead-end retail and restaurant jobs. We need to get our people into innovation mindsets and back great ideas with capital so our people can fill these many EXISTING properties with profitable ethical, and truly productive businesses and socially beneficial nonprofits.

    Let’s stop fretting about the interests of hotel magnates for a year! Just one year! Please!

    We need to expand Asheville’s innovative capacities, as individuals, as a community, and certainly as a government. If PIP can only come up with more hospitality jobs and parking space, then they haven’t seen our fancy new Downtown Master Plan and may not be on board with the idea of livable community, for those who actually live here.

    The first large condo project? Is that what we call ‘public interest’ these days? Seriously?

    We need innovators leading the way. Maybe PIP isn’t that great an organization any longer. A history of both good and bad projects adds up to average, at best. Our nation is overflowing with such mediocrity.

    Maybe a new development model is possible. Positive ethical innovation is really hard. but once a roadmap is communicated, it may be easier to bring everyone’s talents together in hopes of measurable results.

    Casey just is not persuasive here and I have to say so. In any case, reciting PIP’s project history doesn’t fix where we are at today. If PIP is the only thing Asheville has to rely on, we are up the creek without paddle.

    That was a truly silly and offensive perspective, Casey. You took away the actual value of PIP. Leaders and their organizations need to show humility, and at least occasionally indicate their dependence on the communities they operate in. While a rebuttal seems necessary, I also have to apologize for being this harsh. I guess this needed to be said though at the same time.

  2. hauntedheadnc

    While I absolutely cannot at all disagree with your assertion that Asheville needs to build a new economic engine besides tourism, I don’t have a problem with the parking deck or the hotel. I don’t imagine downtown businesses would mind the infusion of customers — either tourists at the hotel or people who found it easier to park — either.

  3. I think commenters should reveal if they’re in the building or developement business…and in some way stand to make financial gains over issues like this.

  4. Grant Millin

    We should welcome tourists… and there are ongoing efforts to diversify the local economy.

    The thing is more new building construction when we have empty commercial space. I’m trying to get some figures on our office vacancy rate. But that’s a good question for our local journalists to answer as well.

    The parking will be for visitors, not local workers going to great jobs.

  5. Grant Millin

    Also, there are a lot of empty spaces, especially at night and on weekends. One solution is for local businesses to end their 24/7 towing policies. Granted part of those policies are about avoiding the liability of non-patrons having accidents and whatnot on their property.

    Otherwise, if you’re a local you know how to locate empty spaces relatively close to your downtown destination, even on days when there are big Civic Center events. A map style website showing where to look for these parking spots might save us from the cost of more parking spaces.

    America is dying from its pathological convenience focus.

  6. indy499

    Very useful, Casey. Thanks for the historical perspective. Now , Grant, you gave PIP an average with some good projects and some not so good. I don’t agree with that assessment, but just curious as to when your first project will be started?

  7. hauntedheadnc

    If you’re referring to me, Davyne, I work in a factory so I have no stake in this issue other than being a concerned local (and native) who just wants to see downtown’s empty spots fill in, and who wants to see downtown thrive.

  8. Melissa Renfroe

    I’m not an outspoken person. I’ve been reading all the oversimplifications and misstatements about the 51 Biltmore project and keeping most of my opinions to myself. But Grant’s comments touched a nerve. I’ve worked for PIP for six years (there’s your disclosure folks, does that mean I’m not entitled to a voice?), and frankly I’m offended by the way our company is being portrayed. Casey’s comments are not intended to glorify PIP, he’s simply pointing out that our company has a long history in Asheville of working to revitalize our downtown and support local independent businesses. Some people may not know that because we spend our time focused on that mission instead of PR. And apparently Casey believes, as I do, that spending twenty years helping Asheville grow into the unique thriving community that it is deserves a little more credit than being lumped into an amorphous “evil developer” stereotype. I can honestly say that I am truly proud to work for this company – to work in an environment where long term benefit to the community, always dealing with people ethically and fairly, encouraging entrepreneurial growth, honoring the spirit and history of Asheville and the memory of our founder all come well before the bottom line. No one here has gotten rich off of anything. We work very hard and we believe in what we do.

    We may disagree about whether parking is needed or not and whether this is the best way to move forward. I also own a business and happen to think downtown parking is a huge problem that needs addressing. Yes, it’s complicated. Most things are. Yes, we would all like to see thriving public transportation but we can’t simply will it into existence with our collective idealism and anyway it’s not an either/or proposition. Believe it or not people drive cars, that’s not changing anytime soon, and I would certainly rather have them drive their cars downtown and support local business like my own and those of many fine people in this community than to drive them out to malls and big box stores.

    You say leaders and their organizations need to show humility and acknowledge their dependence on their communities. In my experience, that just about all PIP has ever done, which is why there are plenty of people in this city who grew up here just like I did and have no idea who we are or what we’ve done. And there are people like Casey and I that think PIP (most especially Julian and Pat) deserves respect and credit for that contribution. Everyone has a right to their opinion on this project and it’s a valuable conversation to have as a community, but the conversation should be based on facts instead of unwarranted assumptions. Anybody who thinks Pat or anyone else at PIP is acting out of insincerity or greed is sadly mistaken.

  9. dpewen

    I love the PIP projects and spend a lot of time and money at them, especially the OP.
    I too would like to see new development downtone.
    Thanks PIP

  10. Grant Millin

    Hey Melissa,

    You protest too much. I never said PIP employees were acting out of insincerity or greed. I don’t think PIP falls into the “evil developer” stereotype either. I do think PIP must now share a Mariott franchise agenda, by default, because they are now associated with McKibbon Hotel Group in a real estate development proposal.

    Along with all the good PIP has done, and the challenges of dealing with growth and Triple Bottom Line issues, PIP is now aligned with the Mariott franchise agenda. It’s an inescapable PR and business issue. I didn’t do that, but now I’m going to point it out because we aren’t being real about our local economy and the experiences of our community winners and losers.

    You will want to take that second cup of coffee before debating me, Melissa. My family owned TS Morrison & Co. for many years, way before PIP was around. People like my parents were the ones who turned things around downtown. That’s one of ‘nerves struck’ positions I was coming from that I used to critique Casey’s elucidations with.

    I totally agree community issue conversations should be “based on facts instead of unwarranted assumptions”. I don’t have a paid ‘public interest’ job, per say, but in 2011 I will be trying to come out with some part of the innovation solution through my business.

    Cheer up!

  11. Melissa Renfroe


    I appreciate your responses and more reasonable tack. I guess the main thing is that I just don’t think that calling someone’s truthful description of PIPs projects “pompous”, “silly” and “offensive” furthers anyone’s argument in a productive way (or dismissing “dead end” retail and restaurant jobs for that matter). I have fond memories of going to TS Morrison’s growing up and I think your parents deserve just as much credit and respect for their contribution, as do all of the other residents, business owners and community leaders who’ve done their part over the years. No one person or group made Asheville what it is today, and I don’t think Casey was trying to say that either.

    Your comment about the hotel group is a valid point, although I can’t say I agree about being aligned with the Marriott franchise agenda. If we were really just in the pockets of these “hotel magnates,” we’d just sell them the property outright and be done with it. Long term, this property will end up being developed one way or the other – it is a large parcel on a main downtown thoroughfare. That means all the current parking spaces there will disappear. We need more parking in this area, not less, and the city has long promised to build a garage in this part of downtown, so incorporating a garage in the project makes sense. City ordinances require, wisely I think, a liner building be built on Biltmore Ave so that pedestrians are not subjected to more hulking concrete walls. So if the city built a garage on its own, the city would be footing the bill for street level retail and office spaces. By partnering with the hotel, the city avoids spending that money and having to manage the commercial property (plus gets more in property taxes). Instead of allowing the hotel to use the street level frontage for an expansive lobby, PIP has insisted that they build retail and restaurant space on that level because we think that creates a better urban mix. PIP will keep the Lexington Ave frontage for the purpose of building workforce housing, which is always in short supply in downtowns because of the expense of construction.

    To me, this plan makes sense. Of course, that is predicated on the parking issue. If you accept that we actually do need the parking, then this is actually a creative plan to achieve that goal while adding to the streetscape, walkability and living options downtown. If you really believe parking is not an issue, then I’ll probably get nowhere. But try asking the business owners on Biltmore Ave. what they think about losing 100 spaces within a block of their storefront, many of whom are just the kind of community leaders we’ve been talking about.

    Thanks for listening,

  12. Margaret Williams

    Regarding some pending comments under review: Please avoid personal attacks against the letter writer and other folks posting comments here.

  13. Grant Millin

    Dear Melissa,

    Apparently an open, public debate on this project needs to occur. I am not a Cecil Bothwell disciple, but now he’s saying Kimley-Horn–who will apparently be part of the revenue stream on 51 Biltmore–did the third party assessment of this project. I want to see COA do a fact-check on this project and help citizens understand this project better.

    I doubt a shuttle-only solution will work, but if there’s some customer and merchant involvement, it may be efficient. Optimization of existing parking is the same. I have a solution that I will be presenting to COA through my firm, Sun Project Systems. COA seems to like expensive out-of-town consultants, so this idea my never see light.

    What I’m saying is another hotel project is not the only next big thing Asheville ought to be looking at. Besides, it wasn’t that long ago that GPI was trying to develop a hotel/mixed use project in that quadrant. Mariott may pull out at anytime. Big corporations have lot’s of options and will do a final risk analysis after COA approves and is ready to pay.

    Melissa, it’s fine that you are defending PIP. I would defend my organization as well, especially if I was in the right. But you are doing a back-and-forth with one citizen.

    I’ve been looking at Pat’s commentaries. There seem to be holes. I will put forth my proposal to COA and hope it helps the parking situation.

    I have no doubt people complain about downtown parking. Recall that I am familiar with the area. The thing is, the north end of Biltmore will still get packed with cars headed into downtown, even with the 51 Biltmore deck.

    I am not a real estate developer, but I do have quite a bit of knowledge about business models and markets in general. Again, I am familiar with the downtown business environment. A lot of street level South of Pack Biltmore Ave. businesses will love a boutique hotel and high end retail development. [What has been printed in the media does not really get into the actual marketing plan stuff of the project once open for business so I admit to guessing as to the hotel/retail business model.]

    The average local might occasionally see a Fine Arts movie and eat something, but we buy a lot of our basic needs at the low rent discount retail models. We are mostly getting fed by Ingles or Earth Fare these days and slashing our trips to restaurants. People making over $50,000 a year, who are free enough with their money to do things like travel and eat out, are the people who downtown businesses want to see come in… at least if they want to make a profit. I happen to think a ethical business that makes a profit is great American thing.

    I have admitted that there is a demand for a better parking solution, AND there is a demand for another hotel. What I’m saying is that efficient use of existing parking, a PILOT shuttle program, and rethinking how to make Asheville a place where more office space and business parks are getting filled up with great, innovative businesses is at least AS important as these other demands.

    There needs to be a more systemic solution that isn’t just about the ideas coming from 51 Biltmore interested parties. That’s the bottom line for me. PIP has committed to this project. I’m just one citizen getting to know the project from a distance.

    You guys came up with the plan and now citizens are dissecting what your side is saying. Just deal with the fact that we are dissecting and that the public will find our our data and make our own assessments as to ‘public interest’ value. We aren’t PIP employees!

    Casey’s tone was what irked me the most, not that I am especially shocked another hotel/high priced retail and parking complex is what is coming down the picked again for downtown Asheville. It’s relatively common now. Casey’s a construction manager (sounds like) and thinking about things like tone, target readers and editing before hitting send may not be things he is familiar with. I corrected him, but I’m not surprised he likes PIP developments, as you do Melissa.

    If you want to counter what I’m saying, and feel the need to defend PIP from my really minor and inconsequential mutterings, I guess you can add another comment here. I will do something that innovates instead of replying again though.



  14. GreenQueen

    Casey, employee of Public Interest Projects, leaves a number of telling details out of his letter. Julian Price WAS Public Interest Projects until his unexpected death in 2002. Many people contributed to the success of Public Interest Projects’ projects along the way, but it was Julian’s vision of serving the greater good with his personal fortune that defined the companys’s early success. If the garage is such a profitable idea, as proponents have suggested, let the hotel finance the structure and reap the rewards. Public Interest Projects owes Asheville and the memory of Julian Price some honesty. They need parking for The Orange Peel. And that is all.

  15. Actually PIP cannot just “sell to McKibbon and be done with it.” At least according to Mr. McKibbon who told me in a public meeting (minutes recorded by the City) that he would not build the project UNLESS the City purchased the property and built the deck.

    I am not moved by the repeated reference by Mr. Whalen and others to the good work done by Julian Price. That’s not an argument for or against this project.

    Parking deck revenues fell by 7.3 percent from 2008 to 2010 (despite installation of new equipment which closed an after-hours loophole that had allowed people who waited past closing to leave for $1 after parking all day). So actual parking hours definitely fell.

    Gas prices are going up, car habits are already changing. (NCDOT says its traffic count on I-26 has fallen.) Estimates on 2012 gas prices from several informed experts run from $5 to $7 per gallon.

    Cities across the country are slashing services. States are essentially bankrupt. NC will cut $3.7 billion, which means many WNC jobs. 1 in 12 homes in Buncombe are in foreclosure. Average home prices have fallen by 25 percent. Bank of Asheville was blown away by bad mortgage debt. S&W is in foreclosure. Flying Frog going down. Grove Arcade had to fudge numbers to pretend its paying back the City on time. (all near current parking decks)

    Wouldn’t a prudent person avoid taking on unnecessary debt just now? Let PIP put the property on the market and let’s see if a buyer turns up. My guess is that the “for sale” sign would be peeling before anyone makes an offer. And if someone does snatch it up at current market prices (maybe $2 million less than the $5 million under current consideration – including both the City and hotel investment) – we can jump in and offer to make that buyer instantly rich by offering $2.5 million and get back into the deal. Assuming we still imagine we need the deck.

    Haste makes waste.

    And you can never step into the same river twice. The deal that may have looked good to some when this one started is now facing the ramifications of a Great Recession.

  16. shadmarsh

    there is plenty of parking downtown if you don’t mind walking your(possibly) fat ass a few blocks.

  17. shadmarsh

    “The City staff estimates that the proposed 51 Biltmore parking deck will
    lose more than $10 million over the first 25 years of operation.” Via Cecil Bothwell

  18. dpewen

    Thanks PIP for the Orange Peel and Malaprops and all the great projects you have developed! Keep up the good work!

  19. @ 25 years before ANY profit can be had….if we can even beleive those projections….we do not need to, nor are we beholden to take on a bad project as payback to PIP.

  20. Grant Millin

    Replying to dpewen, I don’t think anyone is detracting PIP’s past contributions. I do think they decided to ‘go big’ with a much more complex project. They decided to align themselves with a giant MNC, Marriott (McKibbon Hotel Group is a Marriott franchisee).

    Also, I am seeing parking alternatives no one is talking about. A parking strategy seems to be needed TODAY. As construction begins on 51 Biltmore, those construction disturbances will make parking even more of a chore in the S. Pack/Biltmore Ave. area.

    Finally, Pat Whalen is giving the public a OPTIMISTIC project outcome scenario. In risk analysis and decision science, one assesses and manages the most likely and pessimistic outcome scenarios as well. Where’s the rest of the risk analysis.

    Does anyone think all the risk analysis and parking issues will be covered all in one night at the 1/25 city council hearing? Will all the alternatives be discussed?

    PIP has limited options for turning a profit on the Hot Dog King and adjacent parking space because of the downturn. My guess the Marriott project was one of the few opportunities that has come up over the past few years… or it was the most profitable option.

    Until all this relevant data can be spread out for everyone to examine, and over a period of several weeks, it’s unlikely the rest of us will get to see the big picture.

    In ten years there could very well be a hulking hotel and parking deck with minimal occupancy in that spot. That’s part of BAU growth. I have little control over what COA, Marriott and PIP do. I just thought the Downtown Master Plan was a leadership document that was supposed to produce real outcomes different from what PIP-Marriott wants… in this particular project vision.

  21. Pat_theOP

    Just to be clear, Mr. Bothwell is taking his “$10 million loss” number from a cash flow statement not a profit and loss statement.
    Actually there isn’t a projected loss of $10 million, there is negative cash flow of $10 million (covered by the rest of parking services, while still subsidizing transit). The City will have paid off a $15 million garage so you really have a $5 million “profit” from just this garage’s operations during that 25 year period. Also there’s no reason to conveniently stop reading the pro forma at the 25 year mark (the loan payoff period) and ignore the City’s 50 year projection. It says, on the garage revenue alone, the City will generate a “profit” of over $21 million, plus having fully paid off a $15 million garage – a total improvement in the City’s financial position of over $36 million. This is without counting any of the other revenue streams generated by the project: property taxes onsite, hotel and sales taxes, and the property and sales taxes generated by improvements on surrounding parcels responding to the new garage and hotel.

  22. sharpleycladd

    I think Mr. Bothwell has the right end of the stick. The prospects for a continuous flow of well-heeled tourists driving demand for parking are not good. Spreadsheets are wonderful things, but the future has its own calculus. Real incomes in the United States are going to decline. Energy and commodity costs are going to climb. The interests of a healthy city core may not be well-served by projects and policies built around cars and tourists.

    I think it also bears mentioning that the disruption to parking supply a two-year buildout will cause will likely put a lot of downtown businesses under; they’re already in pretty dire straits. But, hey, turnover is good: that’s the Rouse Development philosophy; I hope it’s not PIP’s.

    I applaud much of what PIP has done over the years, and await their thoughts on enhancing our area’s wage base: we badly need support for manufacturing jobs, industrial incubators, financing for knowledge-and-process businesses, etc. We might study how Germans’ standard of living has fared during their recession; pretty well, because they have what’s called an industrial policy.

    I would respectfully argue that there’s more to an economy than parking and shopping.

  23. The 50 year timeline is one big guesstimate. Even sci-fi writers in the 50s had us using monster computers in the distant future, not smart phones.

    And sharpleycladd reall hits the nail in the last line. The final argument is about community values. “Go ahead and play in the street, Sally, we decided that parking cars downtown was more important than sidewalks.”

  24. Grant Millin

    If we want to experience the same thing over and over again in terms current Asheville downside dynamics, keep re-electing Terry Bellamy, Brownie Newman (who I don’t think is running again in any case), Jan Davis and Bill Russell.

    Brownie’s sending out a 51 Biltmore support letter leading as follows:

    Why I support public parking for downtown Asheville

    By Vice-Mayor Brownie Newman

    “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”
    – US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    I can’t make it to tonight’s council meet, but I did send the following reply:

    Hey Brownie,

    Pat Whalen is also referring to pro formas and the 51 Biltmore payback forecasts. Forecasts are not facts. Quoting Moynihan is more PR… But it is certainly not basis of a strong value proposition.

    Brownie, forecasts can be helpful, but just be honest that projections for success fall into fairly wide optimistic, most likely and pessimistic ranges. When our leaders and special interests do that, we respect the fact that when public monies are involved citizens are being treated like adults with basic levels of reasoning capacity. Otherwise we’ll think that the 51 Biltmore PIP/Marriott/COA lobbyists think they are smarter than us taxpayers are. That is not the case, at least if you are addressing me.

    What are the COA exit costs for this project, and what are the key Go/No Go decision points? What is the worst case loss scenario? No one seems to have that kind of analysis to balance out the project selling points. No one can whip this kind of stuff together today and cover all the angles during tonight’s public hearing. That’s sad that no one bothered to think about a balanced PR presentation for this project. We’ve covered Wal-Marts, other hotels, and people wonder about developments like the Grove Arcade. [I happen to think projects like Grove Arcade are great, at least in terms of physicality.] We have a new Downtown Master Plan. This town has many, many Triple Bottom Line thinkers.

    Why is 51 Biltmore being discussed in the same ‘he said/she said’ fashion of ‘fact’ warfare everyone is totally bored with? Been there, done that. Where’s the collaborative innovation and intelligent public relations?

    My family landed in AVL in 1979 and we bought TS Morrison & Co. We’ve seen a lot of ups and down in downtown Asheville. My family and I are savvy to downtown economic dynamics.

    “Any jobs are good jobs” is an old mental frame for Asheville. I’m sure the construction, hospitality and retail jobs will be filled, should 51 Biltmore actually happen. I am happy to see folks make money, even if it is temporary, seasonal or relatively low wage …And mid-high level construction and hospitality management jobs are not low wage. I just hope that soon we can shift gears upward and the various efforts to bring in high wage jobs Asheville and WNC locals can actually compete for will come to fruition. Of course we are on a low angle upward curve out of a severe recession (more of a ongoing recession for many.)

    Tonight’s city council meeting will be packed early with downtown business interests so there’s no need for me to be there, but I hope this message is somehow useful. I’m actually not interested in being painted as anti-growth either, which would not be accurate. I will try to introduce my ideas about working with downtown parking dynamics later through my business.

    I’ve talked to Joe Minicozzi, looked at Pat Whalen and Dwight Butner’s commentaries about how great this public investment will be… And how 51 Biltmore is coming in just as the Downtown Master Plan is going online. A C-T says it will be great for us.

    51 Biltmore is a Marriott project. McKibbon Hotel group is a Marriott Hotel Group franchisee. Rich folk traveling around the world staying at hotels is a good source of GHG. But I would guess you know that, Brownie. Those are actual facts citizens should know about, as much as the other ‘facts’ flying around. I’m not sure why we can’t mention those things in the public analysis of this PIP/Marriott/COA partnered project.

    51 Biltmore may go the way of The Ellington… And the Dodo bird. Because PIP really, really wants this project to happen means little when it comes to Go/No Go development decisions Marriott makes every day regarding its global concerns.

    AVL citizens are savvy to development schemes. Many of us want real, sustainable innovation. The Asheville brand can go up, instead of down with more BAU development.

    51 Biltmore is the ‘latest and greatest’ development. It’s mostly exciting for existing hospitality and boutique retail businesses. Working for these businesses does not grow our local human capital capacity in preparation for high tech and professional services businesses. But we are branded heavily as a hospitality market… So we get more of those market dynamics… Decade after decade… After decade. You’ll have to excuse us if not everyone gets terribly excited about this model.

    I criticized a PIP contractor’s MX LTTE recently and it seems to be creating some relevant discussion:

    One of my many comments in this particular thread has to do with the ranges involved in risk analysis. ANYONE’S 25 and/or 50-year forecasts, even if it’s the World Bank or CBO, can be dissected as being inaccurate if ranges aren’t used. We were just talking about this stuff in my MBA leadership class yesterday.

    My final position is that downtown AND THE OTHER SECTORS OF ASHEVILLE and Buncombe County need to have the current vacant office and business park spaces filled up with great, innovative small and medium businesses. I think 51 Biltmore will be approved, but not because citizens, the Mayor and City Council were basing their assumptions on modern decision-making science or citizen crowdsource ideation as to what to do with our tax revenues and what Asheville will be ten, twenty and a hundred years from now. If 51 Biltmore is to be considered evidence, and it is, the Downtown Master Plan is already nothing more than a bit of toilet paper… Just like the other unbinding Asheville comprehensive development plans have become today.

    The idea that S. Park Sq./Biltmore Ave. Corridor restaurants and boutique retail independents (I still think of Mast General Store as ‘independent’) really, really want a source of wealthier-than-local walk-ins like a upscale Marriott is not hard to imagine. Parking is another matter.

    No one has mentioned anything about the 51 Biltmore hotel or retail stores in terms of who the target market will be. I assume those with median Asheville incomes will not be able to afford what 51 Biltmore has to sell. There is a big assumption that the average Ashevillian can afford to take a low-level 51 Biltmore management or casual labor job. Of course the taxpayer has no idea what the 51 Biltmore wages will be, because that might not be good for project PR. That’s also annoying, but apparently yet another fact.

    I would like to help the various local interests looking for parking solutions. I’ve rode trolleys in major metro California cities and AVL is probably not an early candidate for such solutions. However, I think there are several low cost parking solutions that are needed now… and will be even more necessary for the South Downtown businesses and nonprofits should 51 Biltmore start actual construction.

    In the end, the fact that COA can’t organize a realistic public analysis of these kinds of projects once they go live is pretty sad. PIP, Marriott (McKibbon) and COA are all on board and seem to have the talking points all ready. Other citizen stakeholders are operating on the low-trust thresholds we’ve acquired over the years. There is going to be plenty of public dissection.

    You guys don’t seem to be smart enough to come up with a new way of introducing these projects and being honest as to how they align with our (currently) crap paper city plans that so many citizens invested into. There’s a long rang view that might be getting lost in the urgency of some individual crises.

    Brownie, this is a classic case of commitment escalation. PIP really, really wants to move that property. PIP/Marriott has made their case, and their PR efforts are just starting. Every time a citizen raises legitimate questions, we’ll be cast as being a Bothwell follower or as ‘anti-capitalist’. I hope there will be a real solution to greater real sustainable innovation in Asheville soon. I have some ideas for supporting this kind of movement and will be sharing more soon. I know it takes great leaders to make substantial positive change in this region… And of course access to capital. [Used righteously, capital is great.]

    Triple Bottom Line innovation is hard. I really can’t say more about your plea in support of PIP/Marriott ersatz forecasting otherwise, Brownie.

    …And I haven’t even broken down the ethics of corporate subsidization when AVL and Buncombe people are barely getting by. And by the way, Cecil Bothwell doesn’t inform my analysis much. As I’ve said, my family has been involved in downtown Asheville economics since 1979 and I am familiar with numerous project analysis tools as part of my consulting business.

    It’s sad to cover these development issues over and over again, especially when we just rolled out our fabulous Master Plan. Why is no one matching 51 Biltmore attributes to the Downtown Master Plan vision?

    I’m just writing again in hopes there may be some lessons learned for the next project. None of these issues need to be that controversial once we all communicate in plain, accurate language.


    Grant Millin, CEO

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