Protect downtown’s architectural treasure

Against the wishes of the people, city officials have made it clear that, for a variety of reasons, they want to restart negotiations with McKibbon Hotel Group as the developer of that city-owned Haywood Street site, across from the Basilica. So, let’s tell city officials what we want (and what we don’t want) if McKibbon develops that site. (And if McKibbon doesn’t develop that site, we can all do the Dance of Joy!)

No. 1: We don’t want a large building crowding out the Basilica, downtown’s most beautiful architectural treasure. We are lucky to have it. Most cities would bend over backwards to protect it. No. 2: We want any McKibbon building to have a 200-foot setback from the street. (Nothing should be built out-to-the-sidewalk).

No. 3: We want to maintain the “sight line” (meaning when you are walking up Haywood Street from Malaprop’s we want to be able to see the Basilica, without another building blocking it from view). No. 4: We do not want to allow a third hotel on that block to become Section 8 housing. In their contracts, some developers state that if the hotel doesn’t flourish, they automatically become Section 8 housing. Battery Park Apartments and Vanderbilt Apartments, on the same block as the Basilica, have already gone from hotel to Section 8 housing. We don’t want another one.

No. 5: We do not want additional chain stores downtown. McKibbon is proposing first-floor shops, which will be too pricey for our local merchants to rent, but we do not want them filled with the chain stores seen in the malls across America. No. 6: We want any new building to architecturally complement the Basilica and the Grove Arcade, (not the Civic Center or another building of lesser architectural standing).

— Anne Fitzgerald Smith

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3 thoughts on “Protect downtown’s architectural treasure

  1. indy499

    The letter writer should join with like minded folk and build the type of building they desire, leaving other property owners to do likewise within the confines of the downtown develop standards.

    I can assure you that the writers definitive statements about “what the people want” certainly don’t reflect what all the people want, and perhaps not what most want. Non-owners should not have any ability to discourage a lawful project.

  2. RHS

    No. 1: Who is this “we” you speak for? Is this the “we” in the royal sense, or are there others you are speaking for and why are their names not included as signers of this letter?

    No 2: What is your beef with Section 8 housing downtown? Do you have any objections to housing other than high price condos downtown or are your objections to lower income people living downtown limited to Section 8?

    No: 3: Are you privy to what the rents McKibbon would charge for the retail space? How much are they and by what standard do you judge that they would be too expensive for local merchants and how are you aware they might not be in the price range of at least some local merchants?

    No: 4: What constitutes a building of “lesser architectural standing?” Are not such standards in the eye of the beholder?

  3. trav-on-hiatus

    No.1: How does a building on it’s own site get crowded out? I do not think anybody is planning on building a government slab of concrete on the site. The plans should need approval to ensure the design contributes to Asheville overall.

    No 2: Who are the “we” you speak of? 200 feet is an absurd setback requirement in the middle of downtown. 50 or 75 feet would keep it well away from “out to the sidewalk”.

    No 3: Development in Asheville should not be held hostage to those who wish to preserve their personal strolling pleasure.

    No 4: This is perhaps the more offensive comment. What you are suggesting is that you do not want economically disadvantaged citizens any where near your personal place of strolling and amusement. Why do you you have a right to downtown assets and demand a say in how they are utilized while you dismiss the housing needs of other “lesser” people who might not fit well in your charming social circle?

    No 5: I think it is quite apparent that in opposing the concept of a building there in the first place, you are hardly going to patronize whatever businesses locate there. Given your opposition, I don’t think you have a voice in who the owners lease to.

    No 6: Do the area buildings compliment the Basilica? I think some do and some do not. In any event, that is a matter of personal taste and anything that is constructed is going to satisfy some and disappoint others.

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