Hey, Asheville—are you ready for three more years of construction on Biltmore Avenue, even before Pack Square is finished? Ready or not, here comes the 30-story Ellington Hotel.
The Ellington is being presented as a 23-story building, but [by my calculation, it will be basically] a 30-story building at 305 feet above Biltmore Avenue. The hotel lobby will equal three-and-a-half stories inside; a restaurant on the ninth floor would be one-and-a-half stories; penthouses or a VIP lounge at the top would equal two interior stories; and finally, the one-and-a-half-story roof-top mechanical enclosure is not counted. This allows the developer to fudge off seven stories as he spins his way through the city planning review.
The Ellington will be 90 feet higher than the 215-foot BB&T, and probably even 20 feet higher on the Lexington Avenue side. It will become Asheville’s Empire State Building, only there you are allowed to go up to an observation floor to look down and around New York City. Not so with The Ellington, which will exclude the public from seeing the drop-dead gorgeous views from the top.
This is tantamount to creating a vertical, gated, elitist community—which City Council has opposed by ordinance. As a public building, it cannot become a tower of elitism any more than a horizontal, gated community can—by recent ordinance—deny cars driving on its streets. There can be no compromise on providing public access to a western viewing, public observatory.
To get a sense of how massive this will be, imagine a computer screen and “drag” the Buncombe County Courthouse to the proposed Ellington site. Then add 16 more stories to reach the 30-story height. Biltmore Avenue will become a darkened canyon, with the western afternoon sun forever shut out.
There is a lot to like about the art-deco design of the proposed front façade, with its progressive sculptural setbacks, slenderizing towards its peak. However, the Lexington Avenue side of the building is approximately a 325-foot, straight-up wall having no architectural merit.
Other serious problems of public concern include:
• The three-year construction phase, eliminating parking on the west side of Biltmore Avenue, will cause traffic tie-ups and street detours. Pedestrians will need protective overhead shielding from falling objects.
• The 100-page traffic study, indicating 1,389 multi-use vehicle trips to and from the building each day, Monday through Friday. During May 2007, traffic counts showed averages of 1,080 vehicles southbound, and 1,997 northbound each day of the week between 4 and 6 p.m.—the expected peak for hotel guests arriving.
• The Ellington can only fit a maximum of nine cars into its Arrival Court at any one time, leaving other arriving guests sitting on Biltmore Avenue. And there will be 52 condominium owners calling for valet service to the entrance.
• Biltmore Avenue (Route 25) is regulated by the N.C. Department of Transportation. I predict that DOT will convert Biltmore Avenue to four lanes, by eliminating parking on the west side, which could be very detrimental to small businesses in the area.
• No parking is provided in the hotel’s parking garage for the anticipated 100 employees.
For more information, interested parties may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
— Robert L. Malkin