The power brokers of Asheville are at work again. If you thought the only indignities left to tarnish the most important building remaining in the city consist of graffiti, traffic, bad condo design and poor sanitation, take a look at the out-sized hotel under construction on the former Chamber of Commerce site, just down the street from the world-famous architecture of the Basilica of St. Lawrence. How could any alert City Council allow such a treasure to be tarnished by the foolishness of approving a 10-story, undistinguished hotel to be erected just down the street—literally a rose stabbed by a thorn?
Now pressures build to make the same mistake again, this time with a grade-C hotel (the last design called for a colored-brick façade) just across the street from the Basilica—once again flinging trash at Rafael Guastavino’s masterpiece.
It couldn’t happen, you say: They couldn’t be pressured into making the same mistake again. Remember the great magnolia across from City Hall? Remember that we were one of the few cities that gloried in a living green meadow across from that award-winning City Hall? Now that same City Hall faces a sea of concrete, including a bevy of faux Greek columns, ending in just another salute to American bad-taste-in-action. Remember that the Thomas Wolfe historical-site house is now dwarfed by the neighboring condo, hence vanishing in the shadow of a glittering, too-big structure (it led to the rumor that attendance is down at My Old Kentucky Home because of waning national interest in Thomas Wolfe).
The Basilica remains the single-most important building in the city and should be treated with care and concern. A grade-C hotel brings in little money, but the visitors to the Basilica would continue to be responsible for uncounted treasures to the coffers of Asheville. Don’t allow this artistic treasure to be destroyed: Instead, finance a park dedicated to what’s left of Asheville’s architectural history, and [serving as] a salute to the trees cut down across from City Hall.
— Peter Loewer