For years, debate and conflict have surrounded the small piece of land at Haywood Street and Page Avenue, across from the Basilica. Hotel? Park? Plaza?
City council members agreed last night to sell the land across from the Basilica of St. Lawrence to McKibbon Hotel Group. Mayor Terry Bellamy and Councilman Cecil Bothwell opposed the plan.
McKibbon is the same company behind the newly completed Aloft Hotel on Biltmore Avenue, which has drawn criticism for its cinderblock design and bright neon roof.
From the Citizen-Times:
Councilman Gordon Smith, who seconded Hunt’s motion to approve the sale, said “Right now, we’ve got a dead space down there.”
Speaking to the developer, Smith said, “You heard tonight that the city expects your best work.”
Smith offered several amendments to the original resolution aimed at addressing some community concerns. Among the conditions for the developer is a requirement to use best practices to make sure that the neighboring basilica is not damaged during construction.
The height of the building will be limited to no more than 75 feet on Page Avenue and no more than 90 feet on Haywood Street and the structure must be 170 feet from the church.
City leaders also want a traffic management plan for the project, and they want the project to accommodate a future plaza.
Read the full article here.
Councilman Gordon Smith responds about the sale on his blog:
The McKibbon Group is prepared to invest more than $25 million into our downtown. As people cry out for economic relief, it would be folly to reject this investment. The property tax revenues will help all of our citizens in perpetuity.
The $2.3 million sale price of the land can go directly to creating affordable housing in our community. I will not vote for the project unless Council agrees to dedicate money to this purpose.
The decision will neither create nor prohibit a park/plaza. We need a welcoming space to join Haywood to Grove Arcade and to complement the Basilica and Civic Center. There can be a plaza, and step one will be the Basilica saying they want it and being willing to either build it or partner with others who want to do so.
We need to do away with the urban blight that exists there now.
Our new design guidelines coupled with a development agreement will ensure the highest quality building and protection of the structural integrity of the Basilica.
Read Smith’s complete blog post here.
Previously posted in Ashvegas: